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Jewelry store owners face another battle

City planners oppose parking-lot plan

The owners of Independent Jewellers want to replace the existing store and add parking in front.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

The owners of Independent Jewellers want to replace the existing store and add parking in front.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/7/2015 (1452 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The owners of an inner-city jewelry store continue to meet opposition from city planners on a proposal to replace their existing store, even though politicians and the local community support them.

Jeremy and Jonathan Epp bested the planning department in June, when councillors on the property and development committee overturned the department's decision to stop the brothers' redevelopment plans.

Now, the brothers are up against civic planners again at a board of adjustment hearing -- and the arguments are the same as a month ago.

"We thought we were good to go," Jeremy Epp said. "It's been a hard process."

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/7/2015 (1452 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The owners of an inner-city jewelry store continue to meet opposition from city planners on a proposal to replace their existing store, even though politicians and the local community support them.

Jeremy and Jonathan Epp bested the planning department in June, when councillors on the property and development committee overturned the department's decision to stop the brothers' redevelopment plans.

Now, the brothers are up against civic planners again at a board of adjustment hearing — and the arguments are the same as a month ago.

"We thought we were good to go," Jeremy Epp said. "It's been a hard process."

A board of adjustment hearing considers proposals that don't comply with zoning requirements and neighbourhood plans; its decision can be appealed to a council committee.

The Epps are third-generation owners of Independent Jewellers, located at the northwest corner of Isabel Street and Notre Dame Avenue.

The brothers want to replace the building with a $3-million, 5,200-square-foot building that would be set back from the corner with a small, nine-stall parking lot where the current store is located.

To do that, they need a conditional use and variance, which is the subject of a special hearing later this afternoon at city hall.

The brothers want to stay in a neighbourhood that has many challenges: the store borders on one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the country; it is located a block away from a notorious crack house and across the street from a hotel and beer vendor.

The plan has the support of two neighbouring businesses, the West End BIZ, two city councillors and the area residents association.

The planning department said the location of the new building violates the West Alexander Centennial neighbourhood plan, which requires new buildings to be constructed at the sidewalk with parking at the rear.

The civic planners said the neighbourhood plan promotes "small-scale" developments with "pedestrian-friendly environments." Having a parking lot in front of the store instead of at the rear runs counter to the plan's objectives — arguments the planners made and lost at the committee hearing in June.

In an administrative report to this afternoon's hearing, the planners said they are required to oppose the plan because it violates a city council policy. "As the City of Winnipeg Charter indicates not to approve a conditional use that is inconsistent with a secondary plan, the public service is recommending that the application be rejected," states the report.

The planners also added new arguments to their opposition, which puzzles the brothers. The planners said there is a caveat on the property warning owners the city will eventually expropriate a 4.2-metre-wide strip along Isabel for a planned expansion of the street at some point.

Epp said expanding Isabel would eventually mean the elimination of the proposed parking lot, but he also questioned why the planners are insisting the new building be built up against the sidewalk — an expansion of Isabel would mean the city would have to expropriate the entire property and demolish the new building.

It was clear at last month's meeting the councillors were not willing to give any support to the planning staff. Couns. John Orlikow, Russ Wyatt, Jenny Gerbasi and Mike Pagtakhan praised the proposal and disagreed the location of the parking lot created an unfriendly pedestrian environment.

Epp said even if the board of adjustment sides with the civic planners at today's hearing, he's confident another appeal to the politicians would be successful, but he cautioned he and his brother are running out of time on the project.

"Construction has to start by January and be completed by October in time for the Christmas season," Epp said. "If we can't meet that schedule, then we'd have to put it off for another year, and if that happens, we'd have to seriously consider finding another location."

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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History

Updated on Tuesday, July 28, 2015 at 8:10 AM CDT: Photo switched.

2:22 PM: Adds map

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