Guest Columnist - Kelly Ryback, who ran for City Council in St. James during the last municipal election (October 2022).
Dear Winnipeg Media
My intent is to provide context and clarity on Mayor Gillingham's proposal to remove the rezoning process for certain infill developments in order to obtain $192 Million from the federal government's Housing Accelerator Fund.
Mayor Gillingham's proposal will be a disaster for the city by eliminating the neighbourhood consultation process through hearings and appeals. Citizens will lose their ability to be heard and to have an influence on neighbouring properties. That is undemocratic. I am sure the mayor, councillors or their partners would NOT want four-plexes surrounding their homes so why should they allow it to happen to others. Maybe ask the mayor and approving councillors that question - would you accept four-plexes beside you?
Councillors Orlikow, Gilroy, and Wyatt all stated neighbourhood consultation is key to infill projects at the last council meeting. Council Lukes said infill is challenging.
For the mayor to say the rollout would be 'gradual' is misleading at best, more so a deflection. According to the administration report, 8,824 new residential permits are expected by the fall of 2026. Removing the rezoning would add an 'additional' 5,277 by the fall of 2026. That is a 60% increase in units. Further, now THOUSANDS of units from the original 8,824 would not have to go through the rezoning process IN ADDITION to the 5,277. That makes a total of 14,101 units in three years. Hardly gradual.
The city Property Department and council committees make bad recommendations and approvals. Many projects are then appealed with many being successful. Negative impacts to neighbourhoods would soar without the rezoning and appeal processes.
The proposal also includes the removal of the rezoning process to allow for four-storey buildings within 800 metres of a frequent transit corridor. Please see the attached map. The blue areas identify eligibility for the four-storey building projects, practically 80% of the city. Please ensure Winnipeg citizens and councillors understand the scope of this requirement.
Surely there must be better ways to acquire the funding. In fact, this funding should be provided to support refugee immigration to the city without lifting rezoning requirements. Processes can be streamlined and improved to shorten the approval duration. There's the opportunity to convert commercial space to mixed-use with a 30% vacancy rate downtown. There are other planned projects that could be applied without taking away the rights of residents.
A primary issue causing the long timeframe to receive final approval on a project falls with the developer. Developers are required to pay a fee in order to move from first reading to second and third reading at council. The longer it takes for them to pay, longer the approval. THEN the developer goes for financing which adds more time.
What will the funds be used for? All of it towards infrastructure for the additional units or just to general revenue in the multi-year budge with most of it going to existing infrastructure and upgrades.
If approved, hopefully the provincial government will squash it, making the whole city exercise a waste of time. What is Wab Kinew's take on this? How about local MP's? WIll MP's Vandal, Carr, Duguid, and Lamoureux accept a 4-plex next door without notification and input? A 4-storey apartment in the neighbourhood causing traffic congestion, noise, and loss of privacy?
The city has three pledges - one thousand acres of green space, one million trees, and the Montreal Pledge. Are these being tossed to the side for the sake of development.
Infill and new development is important but the negative impacts are longstanding when it is done wrong.
I am asking you to expose the truth and hold councillors accountable to it. Don't allow the talk around.
Thank you for your consideration. Please contact me if you have any questions or wish to conduct an interview.
Ryback 4 St James
Community advocate and charity champion