July 17, 2019

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Jeweller 1, city planners 0: Committee approves building design over objections of staff

Independent Jewellers at the corner of Notre Dame and Balmoral.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Independent Jewellers at the corner of Notre Dame and Balmoral.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/6/2015 (1481 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A group of city councillors ignored development policies Friday and approved a project plan over the objections of staff planners.

Members of the property and development committee unanimously supported the project by Independent Jewellers to redevelop its Notre Dame Avenue property, even though its plans don't comply with the neighbourhood plan.

Independent Jewellers wants to rebuild the store, moving it away from the sidewalk, where they would instead build a landscaped parking lot.

But the neighbourhood plan requires buildings to be sited at the sidewalk, with the parking in the rear, to create more pedestrian activity.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/6/2015 (1481 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A group of city councillors ignored development policies Friday and approved a project plan over the objections of staff planners.

Members of the property and development committee unanimously supported the project by Independent Jewellers to redevelop its Notre Dame Avenue property, even though its plans don't comply with the neighbourhood plan.

Braden Smith, Winnipeg's chief city planner during a property and development committee meeting at City Hall on June 2.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Braden Smith, Winnipeg's chief city planner during a property and development committee meeting at City Hall on June 2.

Independent Jewellers wants to rebuild the store, moving it away from the sidewalk, where they would instead build a landscaped parking lot.

But the neighbourhood plan requires buildings to be sited at the sidewalk, with the parking in the rear, to create more pedestrian activity.

Independent Jewellers said there have been several horrific vehicle crashes at the intersection, which have damaged the store and led to one person being killed, arguing that moving the building away from the corner of Notre Dame and Isabel Street would make it safer for pedestrians and motorists and less likely for the store to be damaged again.

There was no opposition to the proposal but broad support from the local community, including from the West End Business Improvement Zone, the West Alexander residents association, adjacent businesses, a neighbourhood development corporation and a city councillor from a neighbouring ward.

The business was described as a third-generation, family-owned operation that wants to stay in a part of the city that's not considered ideal as a business location. The business borders on one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the country, is located a block away from a notorious crack house and is across the street from a hotel and beer vendor.

Chief city planner Braden Smith said his staff is bound to adhere to the requirements of neighbourhood secondary plans when assessing development applications, adding planners don't have the luxury of considering whether an applicant has been a good corporate or community neighbour or how long they've been established.

"We try to manage the spirit as well at the intent of the secondary plan," Smith said. "For that, we recommended that the application not be proceeded."

Smith said if the councillors want to approve Independent Jewellers' proposal, then it would be best to go back to the community to amend the planning document through a public-hearing process.

Smith said he didn't see any safety benefit to moving the building further away from the corner.

The outcome of the appeal was never in the doubt. The councillors appeared uninterested in hearing the planning department's reasons following the public presentations.

All four members of the committee praised the proposal. Coun. Russ Wyatt (Transcona) said the parking and building layout, "would fit into any suburban mall," and praised the owners for staying at that location.

Coun. Mike Pagtakhan (Point Douglas) noted the amount of support for the project and, contrary to the administrative planning report, believed the design encourages pedestrian activity.

"It has a lot of windows," Pagtakhan said of the proposed new building. "Clearly, it's a very welcoming and very exciting type of design."

Only Coun. Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) said the project should be delayed pending an amendment to the neighbourhood plan but conceded because there was so much support she would support it as well.

"I know there's been a lot of hearings lately where we're criticized for not listening to the planners," Gerbasi said. "It's really difficult. You have to look at each individual situation."

Coun. John Orlikow, chairman of the committee, said he saw no reason to change the neighbourhood plan because the committee didn't think it was appropriate in this instance.

Changing the plan, Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry) said, could have negative impacts on the neighbourhood.

"We do have some policies and secondary plans in place, but when we boil it down to a specific property, we have to contextualize in that moment and the committee, I think, made a good choice," Orlikow said. "If you're going to change a plan, you have to change a plan for everybody, not just for one property."

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Aldo Santin

Aldo Santin
Reporter

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.

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