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This article was published 20/9/2018 (339 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Andrew Marquess and his plans for a massive residential development on the Parker lands have been left in limbo.
And that’s making the Winnipeg real estate developer’s lawyer, Dave Hill, very unhappy.
City councillors decided Thursday to postpone taking any action on the project until the administration has cleared up outstanding questions regarding a judge’s ruling Wednesday, ordering the City of Winnipeg to consider Marquess’ applications for a rezoning and a secondary plan Nov. 13.
"The judge made her ruling," Hill said after Thursday’s council meeting. "The city has to consider the applications. That’s what she said."
Earlier in the day, Marquess and Hill attended the meeting hoping they could speak as a delegation.
However, council voted 13-3 against that move after senior staff said allowing them to speak would breach the city’s procedure bylaw that prohibits council or any of its committees from hearing any delegations on a city matter that’s before the courts.
Couns. Janice Lukes, Ross Eadie and Jason Schreyer supported hearing what Marquess and Hill had to say.
Justice Candace Grammond had ordered the city to hear Marquess' applications for a secondary plan for the entire Parker lands site and a rezoning for his Fulton Grove project at the Nov. 13 meeting of the city centre community committee.
Marquess went to court earlier this year to force city hall to consider applications he was required to make for his project to proceed. He alleged city officials were deliberately stalling the project and acting in bad faith.
The Parker lands are located west of Pembina Highway and south of the CN Rivers rail line. The Fulton Grove project is on the northern most portion of the site.
Marquess and Hill had wanted to speak to an administrative report, which recommends against initiating the public process on the secondary plan written by Marquess’ team. The administration said the plan is flawed in several areas and doesn’t comply with the city’s planning policies.
City officials have also refused to consider plans for the Fulton Grove residential development, on the 47 acres he owns, which consists of 1,900 resident units in a mix of single-family homes, duplexes and four-plexes and apartment towers ranging in height from four to 10 stories.
Winnipeg chief administrative officer Doug McNeil told council while Grammond had issued her ruling Wednesday, city hall had not yet received it, so the matter was still before the court. In addition, McNeil said the city had formally written to Grammond asking for clarification on her ruling.
Hill later countered, saying Grammond’s ruling was effective the minute she released it.
Hill said Grammond also sent city hall an email Thursday morning, telling officials it wasn't necessary to hold a hearing for Marquess' proposals and they could be considered at a public meeting.
Later, when the administration recommendation came up on the agenda for consideration, Coun. Jenny Gerbasi suggested it be laid over indefinitely, until senior staff had cleared up any legal concerns.
McNeil supported the layover and council unanimously agreed in a voice vote.
"We don’t want to ignore a court order, but we don’t know what that order is at this point in time," McNeil said. "The best course of action is for council to lay this matter over."
Hill said he still expects the applications to be on the agenda for the Nov. 13 meeting, adding if they’re not, city hall will be in violation of the judge’s order, and it would lead to a lawsuit.
The ongoing drama over the Parker redevelopment dates to 2009, when Marquess obtained 59 acres in a controversial land swap deal with city hall. His company, Gem Equities, later acquired another 14 acres of nearby land from CN Rail.
The city expropriated 24.5 acres of the parcel — most of that (16.5 acres) to accommodate a giant storm-retention pond, four acres to accommodate the relocation of Manitoba Hydro transmission lines for the transit corridor, and another four acres needed for the construction of the corridor itself.
Development on the site has been contentious. Environmental groups opposed the land swap and protesters occupied the property last summer to block the removal of trees. Marquess had to go to court to enforce an eviction order against the protesters and has since sued many of the protesters.
Marquess went to city hall in April, alleging city officials had reneged on a commitment to allow the project to proceed, and later produced emails from city staff supporting his allegations.
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.
Updated on Thursday, September 20, 2018 at 7:30 PM CDT: Full write through, adds photo