SOME developers are lashing out against "last-minute" additions to residential infill guidelines, alleging the proposed changes threaten their industry and Winnipeg’s growth.
By contrast, a city councillor argues those very same rules reflect feedback from hundreds of Winnipeggers who live near infill projects.
Multiple developers say they felt "blindsided" by a few new controversial rules they believe could threaten smaller development companies’ bottom lines and severely reduce the number of infill homes built in the city each year, if approved by council.
"I think there (would be) severe consequences. I think it will effectively freeze (infill) development in many parts of the city… I think this will effectively kill the city’s plan for density," said infill developer and builder Nigel Furgus, president of Paragon Design Build.
Furgus said a call to allow just two residential infill developments per block per year could greatly limit growth, as would a separate call to limit development on streets serviced by gravel or mud back lanes.
While duplexes and secondary suites could still be added at those sites, the lane restrictions would prevent two separate structures from being erected on many of the lots, unless the developer paves the road section behind and leading up to that lot. Where two legal lots are currently covered by one home, as is the case in some older neighbourhoods, no redevelopment restriction would apply.
Furgus said that change would greatly raise the cost of projects and lessen the return on the investment.
"This is very cost-prohibitive and it makes it almost impossible to build on those streets," he said.
The city’s technical advisory committee on infill guidelines is also asking for the city to delete the two-per-block and gravel lane restrictions.
Tim Comack, a member of the committee and vice-president of development for Ventura Land Company, said the gravel lane limit would affect a substantial share of back-lane lots in the prime infill areas of St. Vital and St. Boniface.
"It will massively impact the available supply of infill and inventory and the cost of construction. Home ownership in infill, because of these guidelines, is going to become more expensive (if the changes are approved)," he said.
Developers also predict the city would struggle to meet its climate-change goal to increase infill construction to 50 per cent of all new homes built by 2030, if the new guidelines are approved. That target is meant to help shift toward more energy-efficient homes with shorter commutes for residents.
However, Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) argues the new limits shouldn’t force the city to abandon that goal, in part because just one-10th of city back lanes are gravel ones.
Mayes believes the latest changes reflect feedback from hundreds of residents in his ward. Many complained that lot splitting increased traffic that sped up the deterioration of their gravel back lanes, while others accused some builders of blocking roads, dumping materials and/or failing to put up safety fences.
"I get people writing... ‘I favoured (infill) at first but it’s a nightmare, I live in a construction zone,’" he said. "Simply unregulated development (would turn) some areas of the city into construction zones all year around, all the time."
Mayes stressed that he supports infill but thinks limits are required in some areas, especially around gravel lanes.
"Maybe we should just recognize reality.… What’s not going to make gravel lanes better is quadrupling the traffic on them," he said.
The city’s proposed residential infill strategy would also set rules for height, size and location of infill builds in mature neighbourhoods.
All four members of council’s property and development committee said they would delay the committee’s vote on the matter — originally scheduled Monday — for about two months to allow for more feedback.
Coun. Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre), the committee’s chairwoman, said she hopes the final strategy will implement clear rules that actually prevent future infill conflicts.
"We need to make sure that there are guidelines and make it clear for people that are living in those communities and the developers themselves," said Gilroy.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.