Constance: With a strong showing of 40 individuals officially submitted in opposition (to 4 in support) I do not understand how you can discount the range of legitimate public/resident concerns put forth with this project.
Matt: I carefully considered every delegation that came forward, and I hope that is reflected in the detailed ruling that I made after approving the application. I don’t feel it’s fair to say that I discounted any public feedback that came up during the public hearing process. I’m now taking in public feedback, and explaining the ruling that I made to the best of my ability.
To fully understand how I came to my decision, I invite you to read and listen to the following files, which include the public hearings where people shared their opinions on the project:
*Oct 19 meeting of the Riel Community Committee
*Oct 3 meeting of the Riel Community Committee meeting
*September 12 meeting of the Riel Community Committee Meeting
*October 19 report regarding the 25% density bonus approved as part of this application
*October 19 report regarding the closing of the lane
*October 19 report regarding the rezoning
*October 19 report regarding the variance
Public documents that predated the public hearing, going back to as late as 2006 when 825 Tache and associated lands were declared surplus:
*Response from the Old St. Boniface Residents’ Association to the expression of interest on the land to an Expression of Interest (EOI) bid opportunity was issued to the public in August 2014.
*North St. Boniface Secondary plan
*Link to the approval of Real Rioux’s neighbouring Proprety 851 Tache at 75 feet
*On May 24, 2006, Council declared the subject City-owned property as surplus as part of the
Public Works – Water and Waste Facilities Master Plan
*Link to City of Winnipeg conditional sale of 825 Tache and associated lands
*Link to Council denying the request of 25% of the proceeds of the sale of 825 Tache and associated lands be denied
Public feedback is an important factor considered in approving a development application, but not the only one. I do not think that use of property should be subject to neighbourhood plebiscite. Further, when you consider that several of the people who spoke are not residents of the Point Hebert area, I can’t see a practical way - nor a desirable way - for a project applicant and opponents to conduct a race for pro/con signatures as our decision making process.
Further, there was very little in the way of consistent feedback from residents. Some opposed the height of the building, some said they would be ok with 6 stories, some said two stories would be the maximum they would like to see. Some wanted a park, some opposed development because of concerns about traffic. The proponent, hearing those concerns, provide a traffic engineering report that confirmed that Tache St. could handle 82 units worth of traffic, and considerably more. I tried to find a theme in what the residents were asking for, but I was not able to find one. Some residents were concerned about emergency vehicle access, I received confirmation that this had been considered and would not be an issue.
Constance:Your "net benefit" to the community has not truly considered the many positions of the residents (including those directly affected that live nearby) - though you try to convince us here with your careful response on many points of argument.
My motivation is to explain my decision, not to convince you. I hope you take the time to review the files that led me to my decision.
My job in these hearings as I understand it is quasi-judicial where I need to rule on developments conformity to our City plans which include Our Winnipeg, http://www.winnipeg.ca/interhom/CityHall/OurWinnipeg/ Complete Communities,http://www.winnipeg.ca/interhom/CityHall/OurWinnipeg/pdf/CompleteCommunities.pdf and any secondary plan (North St. Boniface Secondary plan is referenced above) while considering community feedback. I need to make a decision with all of the information that is presented at the public hearing, and I reiterate that that neighbourhood opinion is an important factor, but not the only factor considered. Essentially, my role is to uphold our city bylaws while considering feedback that comes forward at public hearings.
Constance:Note: not all residents that opposed were necessarily members of the OSBRA (to which you were a member & President of just before your election).
Matt: I felt and feel that a residents association, regardless of ‘membership’ i.e. being on the executive, is a body which is tasked in part with representing the people of a given geographic area. That area was where most project opponents lived.
Further, the residents association hosted a public meeting, where the people in attendance took the position to outright oppose the plan without trying to find a project that the association could support. This put me in a zero sum game situation where the only choices, were to outright support or oppose the project in terms of the feedback provided by that group.
Constance: Also, how can a building of this height (~7 stories) even be considered when just across the street (also on Tache) the 4 condo buildings recently built could not exceed 4 stories?
Matt: A taller building application has already been approved on the west side of Tache with no community opposition, so I don’t entirely understand what the issue is with the height. The approved building is placed farther from Tache St, as close as it can go the park lands, so the impact of the height of the building will be minimized for the community.
The location in question was supported for high density residential according to the the secondary plan. Further, the developer was given a density bonus in exchange for a significant upgrade - at their expense - of water and sewer capacity to Point Hebert, which will clear the way for FURTHER redevelopment of industrial sites into housing and parkland.
Constance:This is a slippery slope. How many more condo/office buildings will be built in this area and at what height?
Matt: This project is a piece of the puzzle for our North St. Boniface secondary plan, which was endorsed by Council in 2007. As you know, we are updating the secondary plan and Provencher PDO, documents which will be subject to public hearing in which I hope that you participate. These will be our guiding documents for development in North St. Boniface for the years to come.
It is likely North St Boniface will see several development applications in the coming years which will involve varying sizes and scopes. All applications will be judged individually on their merits, however in my personal opinion; greater density and increase in the housing supply in the area will be positive, in line with my previously stated views.
Constance:And why stop there? In the interest of density, why not Goulet Park & the green space where the Alpine club is located? Why not portions of Whittier Park too eventually? Yes, I am cynical, but it is possible based on some of your arguments listed above.
Matt: This application created a park out of industrial lands, though you may have been told otherwise. It consisted of the redevelopment of an old industrial site, not a park. In fact, it created and stabilized a new riverfront park for future use long term.
The secondary plan does not support the development of housing in Whittier park, see the proposed land use map at the end of this post which is part of the North St. Boniface Secondary plan. The slippery slope I think, would have been to vote against the secondary plan that protects Whittier park, and protects the linear park that we want to complete along the riverbank. The plan protects the park. In the past, some Councillors have ignored their secondary plans in favor of development, I have respected the secondary plan in my ruling.
Constance: With many City of Winnipeg documents encouraging/advising little to no development on riverbank sensitive lands (such as development 350 ft from normal water level) - I am surprised you and the City are not upholding this first and foremost more significantly.
Matt: I am not familiar with those documents you referred to. As I stated above, this project stabilizes riverbank land which was experiencing erosion. Any such arguments were not presented during the public hearing which was the feedback that I used to make a ruling on this.
Constance: Also, there was little to no official public consultation with this project - though people realized that at the 11th hour they could present at the Committee meetings at City Hall (as we did in recent weeks). It seems to no avail very unfortunately.
Matt: There opportunities for the public to weigh in on the 825 Tache and associated lands sale as early as 2006 when the City declared the lands surplus, and when the sale was reported in media via my efforts to secure funds from the land sale for Promenade Tache. Numerous community stakeholders were present. The residents association also submitted a bid at when the City asked for ideas on how to develop the site with a mix of park and residential development (see link above). I attended meetings with directly affected landowners. I listened to each and every delegation closely, and also ordered a further meeting with community members via the residents association where the association chose to outright oppose the application.
I’m also actively looking at how other cities do land development, I agree there is work to do on our processes. For example, this is how Edmonton advertises a rezoning:
Constance: As a business owner on Provencher, I do support density, but *not* at the expense of green space on the riverbank side - particularly if there is an opportunity (however remote) to extend this particular green space from Goulet Park straight through to Whittier Park.
Matt: This project was not at the expense of greenspace. An industrial land was repurposed, and riverfront land is upgraded to a proper green space, and the riverbank stabilized to protect it. Further, I do not believe the possibility of extending the linear park all the way to Whittier park is a remote possibility. I have been and will continue to actively collaborate with the landowners along the riverbank, to promote the construction of our secondary plan that calls for a linear parkway and residential development as indicated in the land use map below.
Constance:Though you say the traffic volume can support this project - those that live & recreate in this vicinity have experienced otherwise. This 'nook' on the other side of the train tracks makes driving & parking (year round events, and downtown office workers daily parking) quite challenging.
Matt: I am one of the people who live and recreate in this area. There are few if any neighbourhoods in St Boniface where there is this much wide open street parking outside of special events. Further, the road is designed to handle more traffic than it currently has. This development will bring new people into a cycling, transit, and pedestrian friendly neighbourhood and support my efforts with new population to make it more so.
Constance:It's unfortunate those that recently moved in that area would have such a building blocking their view.
Matt: This is but one of the blocks of the castle that we are building that implements our secondary plan. The Hébert Neighbourood will continue to develop as there are many vacant or industrial lots that will be developed when landowners bring forward applications to do so. There is a saying in land development that you don’t you own your view, though people’s views are considered when applications are approved. The building being as close to the park as possible will limit the impact of people's views in the area.
Constance:Can you imagine such a building metres away from your house Matt Allard? Others of you that commend this project?
Matt: I wouldn’t have a problem with this building by my house, personally.
Constance:In this condo market (glut) & recent mortgage requirement changes, I cannot imagine these suites selling quickly or at all-- *especially* right beside a very active train track (6 trains an hour as you know).
Matt: It is not up to me to determine real estate market conditions and make a ruling according to my guess of them. The developer who is spending millions of dollars on this project clearly believes they will sell. Further, where did you get the 6 trains an hour number, that seems excessive?
Constance:Why not admit that the City cannot afford this to be a proper green space, that initial efforts have been made to proceed with this project long ago and that the City needs this space to be an income revenue generator (sale of space to the City, property taxes etc).
Matt: I do not think that has ever been denied. The fact is that this area has a large amount of park space which is quite underused, Elzear-Goulet Park in particular. Parks need people. Many residents have complained in the past they don’t feel comfortable in these parks due to groups of people hanging out by the riverbank. More eyes on the street will increase safety and support the considerable amount of park space this area is blessed with.
Constance:Many of us are completely astounded by your careful response to your decision - one that very much appears was well underway long before your post here.
Matt: I don’t know if it is your intention Constance, but this statement puts into question my very integrity as a City Councillor. The fundamental rule in these public hearings is not to prejudge an application until the public hearing is over. I can assure that I had not made a decision regarding these applications until after I closed the public hearings.
Most of the statement, I wrote late at night after the public hearings were over, where the information coalesced for me into a decision. I wrote prepared remarks to be delivered at the Riel Community Committee ruling so to properly explain myself and not miss important details by speaking off the cuff. I then posted these same remarks verbatim, to explain my reasoning to those who could not be there for them to be heard.
Constance:At the end of the day, as I used to work for the City as the Riparian Areas Coordinator (and have worked with & volunteered with River & Creek groups) and care very deeply for riparian areas above all, my disappointment is seeing this green space opportunity lost in perpetuity. (Yes, I am aware there will be some green space salvaged, though merely a token)
Matt: There is more than a ‘token’ being saved and the land that is being converted to park conforms to the land use map of the secondary plan that you can see at the end of this post. The desire of some residents to see the ‘lane’ declared the boundary for development, making it maybe 150 ft, could still be called a ‘token’ by anyone wishing to see nothing at all on this site.
Constance:Sorry Matt, I expected better from you on this one.
Matt: Constance, I’m not sure what you expected. I tried to find a compromise with the residents and the residents association where apparently there was no desire to do so. I kept public hearings open as long as I felt new information was coming forward to help me with my decision. An easier approach for me would have been to vote the way that my friends and supporters wanted me to. I made what was probably the toughest decision to date in my political career, I ruled to approve this application because I believe based on the information presented at the public hearing, that it was a net benefit to the community, now and for the years to come.