On June 24, after a two-year process, Winnipeg city council approved new guidelines for the future of infill residential development in the city’s "mature communities" (areas built before 1950).
The clumsy and unregulated approach to infill construction in St. Vital’s Glenwood area (lot-splits; where one home on a 50-foot-wide lot is demolished and replaced with two new homes, each with two units) has dominated this term of office, resulting in hundreds of complaints from area residents.
There can be cost savings to a city from infill (such as more people using existing community centres), but shoddy developments in Glenwood have led to streets, lanes and sidewalks constantly being blocked, builders destroying the property of neighbours without taking responsibility for these damages, new builds often ignoring the rules for demolition and constructing homes that differ from submitted plans.
When the matter came to council, I supported the guidelines, in part because two changes that were incorporated, after months of effort from my office and from the residents of St. Vital.
The original version of the guidelines, revealed in fall 2020, prompted hundreds of critical comments from St. Vital residents in the R2M area code, and city staff took note.
• The new guidelines will prohibit lot-splits on properties with gravel lanes, in areas that have R1 (single family) zoning. Most of the older parts of St. Vital have R1 zoning, except for streets such as St. Mary’s Rd., and the northern part of Glenwood. This reflects the reality that gravel lanes simply can’t handle densification the way concrete lanes can.
Considering the fact that the St. Vital ward has more than one-third of the City’s gravel lanes, this factor mattered in St. Vital. One exception - where properties have "underlying lots of record" (that is, a single home is built on two 25-foot-wide lots) a split can proceed. Much of Glenwood has these underlying lots, but there are very few other areas in the ward with this history.
• City staff is to draw up a "secondary plan" for Glenwood by March 31, 2022. This recognizes the enormous amount of infill that has occurred in Glenwood, and the need to speak with area residents. The new plan may promote applications for duplexes rather than the lot-splits which have caused such acrimony.
There will still be controversies about development but I feel that some valuable protections for St. Vital communities have been achieved.
St. Vital ward report
Brian Mayes is the city councillor for St. Vital.