A proposed move to bigger, more informative variance signs was intended to start a conversation — but when the first example was unveiled Friday, infill was all residents wanted to talk about.
Coun. Kevin Klein pitched the idea of improving variance signs to Winnipeg city council (modelled on the City of Edmonton’s design) but the executive policy committee turned the proposed pilot project down, noting the public service is working on a study expected to wrap up next year.
So Klein teamed up with Veritas Development Group, which put the revamped signage (estimated price tag: $500) in front of a single-family home on Renfrew Avenue, outlining plans to split the 50-foot lot in two.
"This is a way to open up that conversation, and be more transparent about what’s happening," Klein said Friday.
It did get people talking: about a dozen residents attended the news conference to voice their concerns about the build — which they said will block shade to neighbouring homes and result in trees being cut down.
"A sign like this, if it contained more information, could definitely be useful," said area resident Ann Hodges, adding she’d like to see an overlay showing how the proposed home compares to the footprint of the existing home and trees.
The sign doesn’t have contact information for the city planner nor ward councillor because it was made by the developer.
"To be more inclusive, we thought we’d provide more information on our own projects," said developer Kurtis Sawatzky. "It’s obviously a two-edged sword: the more information you get, the more questions. But we thought that was a better way to go, inviting more dialogue from the neighbourhood."
Sawatzky took questions from residents worried about the infill development. He noted the house on site is 90 years old, and the two houses he plans to build in its place will be more energy efficient.
This is the first such sign Veritas has posted, and Sawatzky said he plans to monitor response before making more.
Klein said it’s better if people can raise their concerns early, rather than having to appeal a development already in the works.
"We’re trying to find ways to work around the mistakes we’re making at city hall," he said.
Meanwhile, infill has also been a hot topic for the Riel community committee.
Earlier this month, Coun. Brian Mayes pushed to stop lot-splitting in the Glenwood neighbourhood until the city’s planning process can be scrutinized.
On Thursday, Mayes and infill proponent Coun. Matt Allard teamed up for a motion asking the public service to study how other communities make infill work in established neighbourhoods and whether tax revenues from infill could be used to fund community-specific services.