April 25, 2019

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Infill infighting

City's proposed rules 'will destroy an industry,' residents opposed to new houses in old neighbourhoods

City hall's proposed cap on the amount of space an infill home can cover will kill the industry, angry developers told the city's property and development committee in a marathon meeting that lasted all day Monday.

Tensions were running high at the meeting, where dozens of industry professionals came out to raise concerns about a proposed overhaul to the rules governing infill development in Winnipeg.

After the day-long session, which featured 23 reports and more than 15 delegates, the future of infill development still remains up in the air.

Developers and real estate agents flooded the meeting room at city hall, raising the spectre of the death of infill development if the city moves forward on a proposed cap on the amount of space a home and garage can cover on such lots.

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City hall's proposed cap on the amount of space an infill home can cover will kill the industry, angry developers told the city's property and development committee in a marathon meeting that lasted all day Monday.

Tensions were running high at the meeting, where dozens of industry professionals came out to raise concerns about a proposed overhaul to the rules governing infill development in Winnipeg.

After the day-long session, which featured 23 reports and more than 15 delegates, the future of infill development still remains up in the air.

Developers and real estate agents flooded the meeting room at city hall, raising the spectre of the death of infill development if the city moves forward on a proposed cap on the amount of space a home and garage can cover on such lots.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>An infill home on Walker Avenue in Fort Rouge.</p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

An infill home on Walker Avenue in Fort Rouge.

"Basically what we're proposing with this lot coverage is to kill infill, to kill an industry. The trickle down effects would be disastrous," said Jon Blumberg of Monopoly Realty.

"Infill development is good for the city and the rules and regulations that are being imposed are potentially going to destroy an industry — destroy, kill it."

Blumberg was one of the many industry professionals who came out after hearing the city is considering capping at 45 per cent the amount of space on a lot that can be covered by infill developments. If that happens, the developments will be unsellable and unprofitable, Blumberg said.

The 45 per cent cap was floated by the planning department at last month's committee meeting in a preliminary report. However, at Monday's meeting city planner Kurtis Kowalke said the number wasn't set in stone, but rather an example culled from other municipalities.

Such a cap is in place in both Vancouver and Calgary. However, Janelle Brown of Paragon Design Build said that standard wouldn't work here, since those cities have larger average lot sizes.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) said some residents want a complete moratorium on infill development.</p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) said some residents want a complete moratorium on infill development.

The committee is staffed by Couns. Brian Mayes (St. Vital), Janice Lukes (Waverley West), Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood) and Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry).

They voted to have the planning department engage in public consultations in the spring in order to hammer out the details on proposed lot coverage, density and intensification criteria, and design guidelines, before reporting back by the end of the year.

They also voted to refer a request for $650,000 in funding from the planning department to the 2019 budget process.

Infill development — which sees older homes demolished and replaced with residences that can take up the entire property — has proven to be a divisive issue, often with industry professionals lined up on one side and area residents on the other.

Mayes, who chairs the committee, has received pressure from both sides on this issue. While he said he knows passions are strong, he warned that the rhetoric needs to be toned down.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Infill housing remains a hot-button issue for residents.</p>

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Infill housing remains a hot-button issue for residents.

There is a vocal contingent of residents in his ward who have signed a petition seeking the city to implement a moratorium on residential infill development. The committee voted to direct the public service to look into the feasibility of doing so, but Mayes said he's not sure it would even be legal.

"I get hundreds of calls and emails about this issue, most of them very upset that things haven't been stopped completely. People upset about what's happening in their neighourhood," Mayes said.

"I understand that we have people from a different perspective here today, people from the industry uniformly. There's a balance to be found. I'm trying to be open with the public that there are both costs and benefits."

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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