DOZENS of Winnipeggers weighed in on the city’s development future Thursday, with several fighting to keep green space intact.
At a public hearing on the Complete Communities 2.0 and OurWinnipeg 2045 draft plans, at least 29 residents were scheduled to oppose one or both of the over-arching documents, which several others supported.
A member of the Save Our Seine community group lobbied the executive policy committee for a complete ban of redevelopment on major public parks and open spaces, such as forests, parks and golf courses.
"We have found that this document is biased towards the need for housing. It provides inadequate protection for green space. There’s no expansion plans for green space, despite population growth that’s being predicted," said Michele Kading, executive director of the group which works to preserve the Seine River and surrounding natural areas.
Kading urged councillors to remove all options to pursue the development of such lands, and set targets for adding new green space in Winnipeg.
"Unfortunately, these two documents that are providing the long-range direction for development over the next 25 years, they will hinder and set back conservation efforts, unless significant amendments are made," she said.
Complete Communities, a citywide secondary plan, does outline rules for the development of green space. However, it also includes a goal to "designate and retain lands identified as major public open space for recreational uses and the preservation of natural habitat."
One delegate did credit the plans for offering the promise of some environmental protection.
Emma Durand-Wood, a member of the Trees Please Winnipeg Coalition, called the documents "a fantastic start" to protect the local urban forest.
"We’re really happy to see the plans include a policy to leverage green infrastructure. We’re glad to see that a tree protection bylaw for major open spaces is a high priority for implementation," said Durand-Wood.
City planning officials stressed the key development documents don’t aim to chip away at green space, noting Complete Communities increases the number of requirements for development in those areas from the current practice.
"These policies should not be construed as implying that the plan is advocating for the conversion of major open space. (It’s) quite the opposite," said Michael Robinson, the city’s Complete Communities lead.
One councillor, however, echoed the green space concerns.
Coun. Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood) is lobbying to remove all development options for both park-zoned land and all land within seven metres of a river (except for parks or paths).
Klein also opposed a Complete Communities suggestion Winnipeg consider levying a new impact fee to support its growth (its first attempt was quashed in court). Supporters say such a fee is needed to ensure new development covers the costs it creates for city services and infrastructure.
The city must prove development doesn’t already pay for those costs before it even considers such a fee again, Klein said Thursday.
"I do not want to see an impact fee, especially without any evidence that one is required."
Mayor Brian Bowman said he still believes an impact fee would offer a valid way to stop homeowners throughout the city from "subsidizing the cost of new growth," noting dialogue on the option is still happening.
Meanwhile, the mayor said he doesn’t support the call to block all future development of major green space.
"I don’t think absolutes are the way to go… I think, ultimately, the council of the day will make decisions on a case-by-case basis," said Bowman.
Council’s executive policy committee expects to vote on the planning documents May 18. Both documents would later require full council approval.
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.