Winnipeg’s Parker Lands development held up again as city seeks legal advice

A developer who’s been looking to build a residential property in Fort Garry will be forced to wait once again as a vote on its project faces another delay.

At Friday’s City Council meeting, councillors Brian Mayes (St. Vital) and John Orkilow (River Heights/Fort Garry) put forth a motion that would hold off on a vote on Fulton Grove until a ruling from the Court of Queen’s Bench is clarified.

READ MORE: Two massive Winnipeg developments back at council Friday

The residential development proposes several multi-family buildings including 12-storey rental complexes be built on the Parker Lands — a 47-acre parcel near the recently-completed Southwest Transitway at Hurst Way.

The city was found in contempt of court twice “for failing to process the applicants’ secondary plan … at a public meeting, pursuant to a non-statutory (policy) approach.”

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In March, the court ordered the city to proceed with the matter.

It has been rejected at two committee meetings since then, and before council could vote again, there has been yet another delay.

READ MORE: Parker lands plan again rejected at city hall after City of Winnipeg found in contempt of court

Waverley West Councillor Janice Lukes did not vote at the Property Planning and Development committee meeting, citing uncertainty about the city’s legal position to do so.

Earlier this week, lawyers for Gem Equities and owner Andrew Marquess sent a letter to the city’s legal department, warning the votes don’t meet the requirements of a public hearing as ordered by the judge.

“A zoning application and a public meeting requires, I think, 14-days notice and obviously representation is going to be made by the proponent for the zoning request, by other members of the public — that’s why it’s called a public hearing,” said Marquess’ lawyer, Dave Hill.

Councillor Mayes explained Friday’s decision was in fact to be sure they were following correct procedures.

“Let’s get the judge to confirm that [council’s] doing this correct procedurally — let’s not have a vote at council and then have Gem refer it back to the courts and hear there’s been a problem,” he says. “I don’t think Gem will oppose that — we’ll try to get in front of the judge as quickly as we can.”

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READ MORE: Winnipeg’s Parker Lands development lawyer says public hearing could end legal fight with city

A decade-long battle

Marquess originally acquired the land 11 years ago in a swap with the city, but since then his plans to move the development forward have been held up at city hall.

“When the land transaction occurred, there was a complete knowledge — and I believe in the offer to purchase it even states — I would be looking to develop the land,” he explained.

At a time when cities and provinces are spending money to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, Marquess believes infill development is exactly what the city needs.

“This is a project that will benefit a lot of people — it creates jobs, it creates tax revenue. It’s about density and infill and creating a community where the more density you have, the more amenities that you can support.”

Marquess said the development could total in the range of $500 million.

READ MORE: City shows off Winnipeg’s Southwest Transitway in online video

Coun.r Mayes told 680 CJOB he doesn’t oppose the development, as it’s something he’s kept in mind since 2013.

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“I voted to put [a dogleg in the Southwest Transitway] because we wanted to encourage infill development.”

“Here we are — it’s 2020 and we’re still in the courts. Let’s make sure we’re doing the right process and get back to a vote at council.”

Mayes adds the application is far from perfect.

“There were over 200 different objections — from lack of specificity to too much density and bad grammar.”

There’s no word on how long the legal counsel process could take.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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