October 22, 2020

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Property and development committee rejects planned Parker lands project

<p>Fulton Grove - a proposed residential development on the Parker lands by Gem Equities, a development company owned by Andrew Marquess.</p>


Fulton Grove - a proposed residential development on the Parker lands by Gem Equities, a development company owned by Andrew Marquess.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/9/2018 (778 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Local developer Andrew Marquess got no love at city hall Tuesday from the property and development committee, which gave the thumbs-down to his proposal for a mixed-use redevelopment of the Parker lands.

The matter was voted on by Couns. Matt Allard (St. Boniface), Shawn Dobson (St. Charles) and Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry).

On the advice from city planners — who said the plans needed a "substantial number of required changes" — the councillors unanimously shot down Marquess's proposal.

Nonetheless, also on the advice of city planners, the councillors left the door open for Marquess to amend his proposal moving forward without having to start the process over from scratch.

"I think it's important to note that you're giving the applicant a chance to come back without having to apply again. That's significant. It's a sign of an olive branch to work with them," Gerbasi said, addressing the city planners present.

"But having said that, you're stating that this is not ready for prime time and there are concerns that need to be taken seriously."

In anticipation of the outcome, Marquess released an early morning statement through his company Gem Equities Inc., saying he was going to skip the meeting entirely.

He also denounced the city administration's handling of the file, making clear he puts more faith in the courts than in city officials.

Marquess is currently petitioning the courts to force the city into holding a public consultation for the proposed development, which would include apartments, townhouses and homes. The matter will go back before a judge Sept. 10.

Last week, a city administration report was published that recommended councillors reject the development plan before a public consultation takes place. That recommendation was followed Tuesday.

<p>Developer Andrew Marquess.</p>


Developer Andrew Marquess.

Marquess characterized the report as "filled with exaggerations and inaccuracies (that) cast aspersions on the well-respected, multi-disciplinary team of professionals from across Canada working on this project."

The report contends his proposal for the 133-acre plot differs significantly from what he'd previously disclosed at public meetings, as well as lacking necessary detail. It also alleges the plan includes no guarantees the remaining forest on the site will be preserved — contrary to past promises.

The land was the subject of a lengthy blockade in the summer of 2017, which aimed at blocking the clear-cutting of trees on the property. The protesters cited, among other concerns, the fact the land was home to a historic Métis settlement called Rooster Town.

Marquess was forced to go to court to get an eviction order against the protesters. He has since commenced legal action against some of them, including Jenna Vandal, the daughter of St. Boniface-St. Vital MP Dan Vandal, who spearheaded the efforts.

That was just the latest chapter in the lengthy drama over the land, which dates back to 2009 when Marquess obtained the 59-acre plot in a controversial land swap with the city. His company also acquired an additional 14 acres of nearby land from CN Rail.

The city later expropriated 24.5 acres of the land. The expropriation of a portion of it — 16.5 acres to build a storm-retention pond — was questioned after a 2015 inquiry concluded civic officials misled Marquess and had been secretive and dishonest in their dealings with him.

Marquess also went to city hall in April and alleged city officials had reneged on a promise to allow the project to proceed, later producing emails from city staff supporting his position. More recently, he began his current legal action against the city.

His lawyer, Dave Hill, has previously said the city's refusal to approve the project could be linked to a dispute over the value of land the city expropriated to build the retention pond.

Hill said if Marquess isn’t allowed to develop the property to its highest value then it would lower the value of the plot. That, in turn, would lower the cost the city has to pay for the land it expropriated.

Marquess has valued the expropriated land at $1.7 million an acre, for total of almost $35 million, while the city has offered Marquess $116,500 per acre, about $2.4 million.

— With files from Aldo Santin


Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

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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