It’s a victory for the trees.
In a bid to save several dozen mature trees, city hall has forced a developer to revamp a condo project on Kings Drive in Fort Richmond.
The plan to create four detached, two-storey cottage-like condominiums, along with a shared driveway that leads to each dwelling, at 80 Kings Dr., hit a roadblock last month. A variance for its exact location was rejected in a three-to-one appeal committee vote.
The decision came after Coun. John Orlikow expressed concern about an arborist’s report that noted 76 trees would be removed due to the construction, which could affect 120 trees overall. The report found another 10 trees should be removed due to poor condition.
"(This would) impact 120 trees, incredible, old, mature trees that are a huge part of our history and a huge part of our environment … Not a lot of these trees are left in Winnipeg," said Orlikow at the April 8 meeting.
The matter came before the appeals committee because the plan called for a variance to reduce the front-yard size to 39 feet from 71 feet. While that was approved by city planners, others appealed the decision, alleging the project would destroy the area’s canopy, add traffic and clash with the character of the neighbourhood.
Orlikow said he was concerned that allowing the reduced front yard would set a precedent that could lead the city to lose additional trees in the future.
While Couns. Shawn Nason and Jason Schreyer also rejected the setback, Coun. Brian Mayes cast the sole vote to allow it.
On Tuesday, Mayes said he’s concerned the city is inconsistent with how it considers infill projects. He said numerous residents of his St. Vital ward have complained about tree loss linked to other proposals that were approved.
"That’s a big issue to discuss, preserving trees. If that’s what we’re going to value, I’m fine with that, but let’s be consistent," he said.
Matthew Robinson, a developer for the King’s Drive project, said the rejection came as a surprise but he understands it.
"I definitely am not going to say anything negative about the city’s priorities to protect the urban tree canopy and preserve the trees... I am all for that priority," said Robinson, a managing consultant with Richard+Wintrup. "We are trying to create the best site possible."
Robinson said the plan, which will replace a single-family home and garage, will be altered to meet the city’s yard-size requirement.
The revised version, which wouldn’t require council approvals, would reduce the space between and around the homes, he said.
Robinson said those changes should reduce the overall number of trees that are removed.
Dave Whitmore, who owns the land, noted the changes could spare trees close to the street but lead to the removal of others deeper into the lot.
"We’ll try and maintain as many (trees) as we can and replant some other ones in places where we can’t. I don’t think anyone wants to live in a parking lot," he said.
Whitmore said he is concerned the setback requirement itself may be somewhat arbitrary, since front yard sizes along King’s Drive can vary widely.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.