Time to review the zoning bylaw

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ST. VITAL

Two weeks ago, I attended an event honouring Jules Legal, Marcel Ritchot, and Jim Gyselinck. In 2002, Marcel and Jim (now deceased) stood in front of bulldozers cutting a swath through a cherished forest east of the Seine River. Jules was busy working the phones — talking to the media and politicians from all levels of government. Although much of the forest was saved, they still express disbelief that the city allowed the forest to be cut — without a permit.

The City of Winnipeg’s 1994 zoning bylaw seemed clear:

Photo by Michele Kading

Winnipeg’s zoning bylaw must be made stronger and enforced to protect the city’s natural spaces.

“No person shall undertake or permit the existence of a development without first making application and obtaining a development permit for that purpose.”

The glossary defined development as:

“The construction of a building or a structure on, over or under land … the removal of soil or vegetation from land, the deposit or stockpiling of soil or material on land, and the excavation of land.”

Fast-forward to October 2018. Another beloved forest in the city was bulldozed. This time, protesters were unable to protect the forest from complete destruction. How could this happen again?

The zoning bylaw was re-written in 2006. Development still requires a permit. Vegetation removal is considered development, as noted in two footnotes.

I pushed the city to explain why it did not enforce the penalties outlined in the bylaw. I was told that removing vegetation and soil is not really development. It is “pre-development.” Say what? The bylaw doesn’t define “pre-development” or exclude these activities from the permit process.

I compared the old and new versions of the bylaw (1994 and 2006) looking for an explanation. An obscure clause (16) was added in 2006. It stated: “Footnotes are not a part of this bylaw.”

Really? How could the definition of development not be part of the bylaw whose purpose is to promote orderly and thoughtful development? Since removal of soil and vegetation is only mentioned in footnotes, is this the reason landowners are allowed to remove vegetation and soil without permits? There is nothing orderly or thoughtful about clearing the land and soil as part of “pre-development.”

The city recommends reviewing this bylaw every five years — along with OurWinnipeg. It has been almost 20 years. The new OurWinnipeg plan was adopted last year with a stronger emphasis on natural greenspaces.

It’s time to review the zoning bylaw and remove this loophole before more forests are destroyed.

Michele Kading

Michele Kading
St. Vital community correspondent

Michele Kading is a community correspondent for St. Vital.

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