City committee urges developer to find compromise with Jubilee residents opposed to infill development

Bennie Gusnowsky shakes his head at what he’s had to learn about Winnipeg’s zoning regulations, variances, appeals and conditional use permits. 

Gusnowsky is part of a group of residents living around two vacant lots on Jubilee Avenue who are opposing the construction of a pair of eight-unit apartment blocks on the properties.

But he and neighbours in the area who spoke against the project will have to go back to some sort of drawing board and see if a compromise can be made, after a City of Winnipeg committee adjourned their appeal until April.

The Jubilee infill project went before the city’s appeals committee on Thursday, becoming the latest in many challenges the city has faced on its infill guidelines — from both residents and developers.

The committee decided to adjourn the appeal following multiple presentations from area residents. The developer was urged to reconnect with the residents who have issues with the project to see if some compromises can be made on the scale of the buildings and parking issues. 

City planners supported the project, proposed for two lots on Jubilee near the Pembina Highway interchange.

They cite its proximity to a rapid transit station and to other multi-family units on the street, and say “positive design adjustments were made collaboratively with the [planning] division to provide a quality context-sensitive development.”

This rendering of the proposed development is included in a report from the City of Winnipeg’s planning department. The department supports the project, citing its proximity to rapid transit line and other muti-family residences. (Vishin Developments)

Vitaly Vishin, the developer, also says the buildings will be of high quality, and promises the “least intrusive” design possible for the adjacent properties. 

Matthew Robinson of Richard Wintrup, the planning firm that worked on the project, says it will include features like spaces for car co-op vehicles and secure bicycle storage on the site.

But some residents who live around the proposed development aren’t convinced.

They say the proposal for two eight-suite buildings is too much density for such a small pair of lots, and the addition of parking spaces for 12 vehicles to the back lane will add to an already congested thoroughfare. 

Adding in 32 garbage and recycling bins behind the property, and considering the fact vehicles won’t be allowed to park on Jubilee Avenue in front of the buildings, residents fear the development would mean more noise, traffic and drainage problems in the back lane.

Jubilee Avenue resident Bennie Gusnowsky says he, and many of his neighbours, aren’t opposed to infill, but think the development proposed for two Jubilee lots goes too far. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC )

Gusnowsky says the scale of the development doesn’t meet with the city’s R2 (residential two-family district) guidelines for the neighbourhood by a long shot.

“Two-family residential doesn’t mean that you put in 16 thousand-square-foot apartment suites that are three to four bedrooms each. We are going to have 60 to 80 people on lots that had two single family homes on them when we moved in,” Gusnowsky said.

The apartment buildings would be 42 feet (roughly 13 metres) tall, dwarfing the 25-foot (about eight metre) roofs of the homes adjacent, Gusnowsky says.

Neighbours ‘receptive’ of project: developer

The longtime Jubilee resident also takes issue with the consultations Vishin Developments did with the neighbours.

The city planners’ report says the developer “spoke to immediate neighbours and found all to be in support of the development.” 

Vishin told CBC News he spoke to approximately 10 residents at adjacent lots and “everyone was receptive of a project going up on the property,” and says he was surprised by opposition at the appeal stage of the process. 

Gusnowsky says he’s spoken to 70 nearby residents who are against the development. About 20 wrote to the city’s appeal committee with their concerns, disputing what the neighbours say they were told by the developer. 

“[The developers said] they were going to clean up the property and put up a couple of nice duplexes,” Gusnowsky said.

“So when they finally see the signs out here saying they are going to be 42-plus feet tall and eight suites on each lot, we were all kind of blindsided by that.”

Robinson, Vishin’s planner, says the project corresponds to the city’s density threshold guidelines, but “we understand infill development is rarely something residents want to see.”

Gusnowsky and many of the residents who wrote to the appeal committee said some kind of infill is acceptable on the two lots, but this kind of density goes too far.

Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry Coun. Sherri Rollins, who represents the area, told CBC News before Thursday’s appeals committee meeting that she shares some of the residents’ concerns.