Today we saw a great victory for accountability at Winnipeg City Hall!
During the last election campaign, I promised to the voters of St. Boniface Ward that if elected, my first act as City Councillor would be to move a motion for an “annual performance evaluation” for the City of Winnipeg’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO).
Prior to the last election, there were several times where the performance of our top administration- under the direction of the previous Mayor and Council - was called into serious question. Public confidence in the leadership of our Civic Administration was badly hurt.
The CAO is one of the City’s most important positions. They lead the administration and implement the will of our citizens elected Council.
As promised, this was the first motion I moved to Council.
Later, I moved a second motion, with the support of Mayor Brian Bowman. It passed Council unanimously. I asked that this ‘evaluation’ be expanded to include the other three ‘Statuatory Officers’; the staff who and hired by and who report directly to City Council; “The Chief Financial Officer (CFO)”, the City Auditor, and the Chief City Clerk.
Today, this huge step forward for accountability at City Hall was made! Each year, a committee of Council will meet and review the performance our our four statutory officers, to whom all City staff eventually report. Further to that, I am thrilled that we will make an external performance summary report card, that will be made available to the public which will confirm that we are doing our job as a Council to evaluate our statutory officers.
I’d also like to add that I was a part of the committee which hired our current CAO Doug McNeil, a great man in whom I have the greatest confidence and respect and who was hired by Council with a unanimous vote.
I am thrilled to have had the support of a large majority on Council to move this plan forward, and I appreciate all of those who have helped make this a reality, especially Mayor Brian Bowman, My Council colleagues, and most of all my constituents in St. Boniface.
Let’s keep up the work together!
Text regarding the decision of 825 Tache and Associated Lands which had been posted on Facebook the night that I had made a decision at the Riel Community Committee
My message to the community about the 825 Tache development application. I believe strongly that this project is in the best interests of our neighbourhood. Below, I discuss my decision and respond to questions and concerns raised by some residents. Thank you to all who participated in this difficult but important process.
Rationale for Decision
This project will be a net benefit to the community. It converts industrial lands by the riverbank to park land to help complete the Promenade St. Boniface trail. It will provide density that will support the Provencher Blvd that we will all want; which is that it to be walkable, a cycling and transit friendly neighbourhood, have vibrant successful local businesses, and be a tribute to the historic nature of the neighbourhood. The Provencher we dream of having one day has not thrived as much as other business strips in the city such as Corydon partly because of lack of residential density in the area.
The proponent has provided the community with an exciting and beautiful project, overcoming the complexities of an extremely complicated piece of land. The project also stabilizes the riverbank where it will be built, as we are losing land to the river and the bank needs to be stabilized. It will provide a new park for the community to enjoy, where an industrial yard once was.
The project will also upgrade Tache and Hebert St. by providing greater pedestrian connectivity to the existing pathway.
This project has the support of our civic administration and conforms to the North St. Boniface secondary plan. The parcels of land are complicated to develop for reasons including the need not to build on a potential rapid transit corridor, the proximity to a rail line, a decommissioned rail line land parcel, and the proximity to the river.
I’d like to go into the past and recent history of how this has played out.
Council sold land known as 825 Tache and associated lands conditionally, part of this sale determined the amount of park space that would be required in a residential development there.
The applicant came to Riel CC asking for lane closing and rezoning which are 2 conditions that need to be met for sale with the city to be finalized. In the public hearing, some residents came in opposition to the plan.
I felt that the open house on the project may have poorly advertised to area residents, so it was decided that 2 representatives from the residents association would meet with the applicant to discuss what they wanted in the design. Public hearings would remain open and the applications would be discussed at a second meeting of the Riel Community Committee.
The residents association held a public meeting in which it was decided that residents would oppose the project out right because they wanted a different division of the parcel of land for park and residential lands. This made the possibility for compromise and negotiation impossible.
The secondary plan calls for a linear park system along the riverbank, but it is silent on how much of the land should become parkland. The residents association has taken the position that the lane should be the boundary to the park, though the land use map in the secondary plan clearly demonstrates that the intent of the residential area would be further west of the old rail right of way which this project accomplishes. The residents association and certain interested individuals also want high density residential along Tache, including on parcels of land just north of here. The disagreement was mostly regarding where the line should be for residential and park land.
The Old St. Boniface Secondary plan calls to “Endeavor to acquire all industrial land along the riverbank for public use” The City of Winnipeg is currently considering a rezoning that converts M2 industrial, an old rail right of way and an unimproved lane into park land and high density residential which is conforming to the secondary plan. In other words, the City of Winnipeg purchased industrial lands, and enabled the creation of park land along the riverbank through this project which is exactly what is called for in the secondary plan.
Though the applicant was willing to meet and discuss the design with the residents association, the residents association did not propose any changes to the proposed design, and refused to meet further.
This development conforms to the secondary plan for St. Boniface as it provides high density residential, and park space by the riverbank that connects to the Promenade St. Boniface River Trail which begins at Lyndale Drive and goes all the way to Whittier Park and beyond.
In response to concern regarding traffic, the proponent prepared a traffic study to demonstrate how their development would be supported by street capacity in the area. Tache Ave, not including St. Joseph, is designed to support about 5000 vehicle trips per day. This project will still leave Tache well below that traffic volume.
In terms of the high density residential development the secondary plan, this should be developed where:
“B. i. Focused along regional roads (namely Provencher Boulevard), collector
roads (namely Tache Avenue and St. Joseph Street) railway lines, and public
transportation corridors, encourage retention and enhancement of existing
residential development and establishment of new residential development
up to a maximum of 55 units per acre net (136 units per hectare), [...]
amended 181/2007” 825 Tache and the associated lands are the definition of where the secondary plan calls for high density residential development.
In terms of the rezoning of M2 lands to P1 lands, this development conforms to the secondary plan. See:
“C. Park and Riverbank
i. Assemble and enhance riverbank properties to enable an integrated and continuous linear parkway system;
ii. Encourage retention and enhancement of existing riverbank public access points and activity centres and establishment of new public access points and activity centres;”
In terms of clause i. We are turning M2 industrial lands to P1 park lands
and ii. enhancing public access to the site by stabilizing riverbank ensuring access to the park for the years to come
The decision before me today is related to a rezoning, variances, the closing of a lane and the granting of a density bonus, not on the land sale that has already been endorsed by Council.
The closing of the unimproved right of way will not negatively impact the two residents on Tache, and this project will provide improved access to the back of their properties.
Variances & Parking
The variances for this project are acceptable, most of the variances are necessary to confirm to the challenging nature of the lot. Also, parking is provided on site in this development and there is relatively ample street parking in La Pointe Hebert outside of special events like Festival.
The density bonus provided to this site is acceptable as this project meets at least one of the four criteria necessary for the density bonus as defined in the secondary plan.
“2. The ‘Higher Density Residential’ and ‘Lower Density Residential’ density maximums may be exceeded by up to 25% where the Community Committee within whose boundaries the
North St. Boniface District is located declares by motion that “one or more of” the following
exceptional or extraordinary circumstances exist in respect of a site:
A. the location of a utility (e.g. hydro transmission tower, aqueduct) or irregular lot
configuration encumbers land assembly;
B. lot area is reduced through street widening (or similar measure that results in lot
area reduction) imposed by Council;
C. the site requires unusually high preparation or remediation costs (e.g. environmental
clean-up, major building demolition);
D. the site requires exceptionally high infrastructure costs (e.g. front-ending water,
sewer), which will subsequently provide offsite development opportunities.”
As this site requires the front-ending of water, it meet extraordinary circumstance (D.) What this means, is that the developer is paying for the cost of building a major sewer line a considerable distance up Tache. This will enable further residential development to the north of 825 Tache that currently lacks adequate sewer & water pressure: which will clear the way for the removal of industrial sites and their replacement with housing and parkland.
In terms of the height of the building, a taller building at a neighbouring property on the west of side of Tache has already been approved with no community opposition. Further, there was an opportunity to discuss this with the developer and the residents association, however the association voted not to meet again with the applicant over the disagreement about the terms of the land sale, which was not part of this public hearing.
Conclusion & Decision
This has been a difficult and complicated decision for me, primarily because of some of the community’s opposition to the project. I value tremendously the feedback I get everyday from the community and use this feedback to try and do a better job every day. Many delegates that registered in opposition to this project are long time acquaintances, supporters and friends, which made this decision that much more difficult for me. This area is of particular importance to me personally, as it was originally developed by my great grandfather Joseph Hebert. This area is of particular importance to St. Boniface today, because of its tremendous potential for development in particular the move from industrial land, to residential and park
lands to complete the secondary plan.
I believe my duty in these public meetings is to support our Winnipeg, Complete Communities, and any secondary plan while taking into account residents concerns during these public hearings, and finding the best possible solutions with the information available. I understand some of these decisions will not be particularly popular, but I make them with what I believe will most benefit the community.
I also regret that design changes were not possible through consultation with the residents association to address some of the residents concerns because of their position to outright oppose the plan. This project will be of net benefit to the neighbourhood as it conforms to the secondary plan, it provides 82 new units of housing and mixed use buildings, and will provide new park lands with a stabilized riverbank for all to enjoy. The residents association’s decision to outright oppose the project made compromise impossible.
I will continue to strive to implement the secondary plan in Old St. Boniface, in cooperation with landowners and residents.
City Councillor for St. Boniface Ward
Great meeting today with Jon Reyes who is Special Envoy for Military Affairs for the Province of Manitoba in my role as Council Liason for Veteran and Military Affairs! Looking forward to working with Jon to promote our Military in Winnipeg and to better serve our outstanding men and women in the armed forces as well as our veterans.
Honored to represent Mayor Bowman and City Council today celebrating Wreaths Across Canada and to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong. George Peterson is the last surviving Veteran of the battle I was honored to thank him on behalf of the City for his service. More information on the battle can be found below. Our brave Winnipeg members of the military joined allied forces to defend Hong Kong. They were greatly outnumbered and fought until they ran out of ammunition. This holiday season, please take a moment to think of our veterans and their families whose sacrifice has given us the freedom and the quality of life we have today in Canada.
* City Councillor for St. Boniface