The rallying cry of a group of residents against a new, four-storey residential building in Osborne Village fell on deaf ears at city hall.
Councillors on the appeal committee Wednesday unanimously rejected the petition against the project, clearing the path for the demolition of a 130-year-old home on River Avenue and construction of a 12-unit structure.
While the proposal was supported by the City of Winnipeg planning department, area residents said it will stress already limited parking and its size is inappropriate.
"I’m not opposed to development, but it has to be within the scale of the site. This is way too big," Ron Iftody said. "It’s a four-storey box shoehorned onto a small site. It’s ridiculous."
The project at 290 River Ave. is similar to other infill developments occurring across the city that have alarmed residents. An older single-family home is being demolished. In some instances, the lot is subdivided into two or more smaller lots to build two or more new homes or being joined with neighbouring lots to construct a condo or rental building.
City hall is developing new rules for infill development, but in the meantime, residents and developers are concerned over inconsistencies in how current regulations are applied.
The River Avenue project is for a four-storey, 12-unit residential block at the southeast corner of Lewis Street.
The project required several variances to accommodate its size on space where a 11/2-storey home built in 1889 now stands, including permission to build on a lot substantially smaller than required, three fewer (and smaller) parking stalls than required, and smaller side yards.
The city’s planning department supported the project, saying the requested changes are minimal and don’t impact the neighbourhood. The variances were approved at a May 29 hearing before the board of adjustment.
Architects Andre Silva and Chris Gilmour told the appeal committee they held an open house April 19 to get feedback from area residents. As a result, they modified the size and design of the building, originally planned for five storeys and 13 units.
The Osborne Village Neighbourhood Plan, approved by city council in 2006, accommodates four- and five-storey buildings on River Avenue but stipulates the fourth and fifth storeys have to be set back from the street.
Silva acknowledged the fourth storey in the final design isn’t set back, but it was approved by the planning department.
Iftody said he was confused as to why the city was allowing the demolition, as the neighbourhood plan stresses the need to protect older properties, and included 290 River Ave. among those in Osborne Village on the city’s former historical buildings inventory (which no longer exists).
The neighbourhood plan requires developers to obtain an independent consultant’s report on the "physical condition and economic viability" of any heritage property proposed for demolition.
City planner Andrew Ross, however, told the committee that as a result of the change in rules on the designation of historic and heritage properties, the neighbourhood plan is out of date and its requirements don’t apply to the home on the site.
On the parking front, Silva and Gilmour said the area residents’ concerns weren’t valid, explaining the project provides one parking stall for each unit.
Those in opposition decried the city’s approach to parking as looking at each infill project in isolation rather than the big picture.
"There’s a critical shortage of parking in this area. All these little developments do is nibble away (at on-street parking)," Iftody said. "You have two less spots here, five less spots here, three less spots here — you may not think (two less spots) is a big deal, but in that area it’s a big problem... It impacts snow clearing, street cleaning. I can’t have friends over."
He said residents feel infill projects are solely about generating the maximum amount of profit for developers and property tax revenue for city hall, without concern for those who live next door.
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.