January 19, 2020

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Appeal committee meeting highlights 'flawed' residential infill process: opponents

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>A newly-constructed infill home in River Heights.</p>


A newly-constructed infill home in River Heights.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/1/2019 (372 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Several people left Winnipeg city hall Thursday night shaking their heads over the decision-making process on challenges to residential infill projects.

The residents said it appears city planners apply criteria inconsistently — rejecting the design of a project in Old St. Boniface with six units as too large because of a lack of space for air conditioning units and garbage and recycling containers, but ignoring those same concerns when agreeing to the same number of units for a project in the Corydon area.

"Why does the city not like it (in St. Boniface), on a corner lot for crying out loud, but here (on Gertrude Avenue), in the middle of the block, they’re silent on it," Gertrude Avenue resident Tracy McMahon said following the meeting.

"There’s no justification for it."

Councillors and members of the public sat through a nine-hour meeting, where arguments from those opposing five infill projects were heard by the four-member appeal committee.

Only one appeal was upheld by the councillors: a lot-splitting proposal in the Glenwood neighbourhood of Old St. Vital. However, in the next hearing, the same councillors rejected the residents’ appeal against another, almost identical lot-splitting project one street over.

"I think the process is flawed, for sure," said Pam St. Godard, chairwoman of the Glenwood Neighbourhood Association.

St. Godard said the public (residents and builders) is rightly confused when similar projects end in different results.

"People are getting very mixed messages," she said. "The city needs rules that are in place and policies and guidelines that are enforced, right now."

For the Gertrude Avenue project, 24 residents had appealed a decision of the Board of Adjustment that will allow the demolition of a 114-year-old, 2 1/2-storey home on a 50-foot (15.2-metre) wide lot, to be replaced with a three-storey, six-unit apartment block.

City planners said the project at 584 Gertrude Ave. complies with all the requirements of the Corydon-Osborne Area plan, and is ideal for the pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood where transit is within easy walking distance.

The residents said the new structure sticks outs like a sore thumb: it’s an apartment block with a slanted roof, which doesn’t look anything like the surrounding homes.

They said the project would be more appropriate on a corner location, where higher-density units are encouraged, and pointed out it lacked adequate parking, with no space provided for garbage and recycling containers.

"I would not have purchased our house if the zoning had existed to allow for an apartment building to be built in the middle of the block," said Kelly Sumner, whose family home is located next door.

The only concession the committee was willing to make to the residents was the roof design must be changed, and the final design of the new building has to be approved by the planning department director and the three councillors on the area community committee.

"Sometimes, something seems black and white to the residents but, all of a sudden, the outcome doesn’t make sense," St. Godard said.

It was St. Godard's second time at city hall this week. She had been one of more than a dozen people who attended Monday’s property and development committee to comment on the City of Winnipeg's pending infill strategy.

It will establish new rules dictating home sizes and designs that are comparable to the surrounding neighbourhood. However, there is uncertainty as to when the new rules will come into force.

Planning staff were directed to come back to the committee in 30 days with a detailed plan on how to implement the strategy, with timelines for when various rules will go into effect and a budget to roll out the process.

The Glenwood Neighbourhood Association had brought a petition with 575 signatures to Monday’s meeting, calling on the city to put a moratorium on residential infill projects until new rules are in place.


Aldo Santin

Aldo Santin

Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.

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