Angry Winnipeggers pack meeting on big-box mall plan

Hundreds of Winnipeg residents travelled to Selkirk, Man., on Wednesday night to voice their anger over a proposal to build a big-box shopping centre just outside the city.

Many North Kildonan residents concerned about increased traffic

Hundreds of Winnipeg residents travelled to Selkirk, Man., to voice their anger over a proposal to build a big-box shopping development just outside the city. 1:53

Hundreds of Winnipeg residents travelled to Selkirk, Man., on Wednesday night to voice their anger over a proposal to build a big-box shopping centre just outside the city.

North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty was among the more than 200 Winnipeggers who went to Selkirk to attend a public hearing of the Selkirk and District Planning Area Board, which is considering whether to rezone a parcel of land in the East St. Paul area as commercial.

A developer wants to build a 200,000-square-foot shopping development near the Lagimodiere Boulevard and Perimeter Highway cloverleaf.

The Manitoba government won't allow the developer to access those main thoroughfares, leaving Gateway Road as the main access route.

Many North Kildonan residents are concerned that all of Gateway's residential arteries, particularly Headmaster Row — which directly links Gateway to Lagimodiere — would see much heavier traffic as a result.

"This is going to impact the traffic 100 times over, and it's going to be so bad," said Kelly Derksen, who came to the meeting to voice his opposition to the project.

The developer estimates the project would add 10,000 vehicles to the streets each day, with 950 vehicles driving on streets around the shopping development each hour.

The Selkirk and District Planning Area Board consists of municipal officials from Selkirk and rural municipalities just outside Winnipeg, including East St. Paul.

But the vast majority of those who attended Wednesday's meeting came from Winnipeg, and almost all of them were opposed to the proposed development.

Some had to stand in hallway

So many people showed up that about 100 of them were forced to stand in the hallway outside the meeting room.

One man was so angry that he couldn't hear the meeting proceedings, he lashed out at board officials before storming out.

"I'm ashamed, sir. You knew damn well there's going to be hundreds of people here. And you don't have to throw me out, I'm leaving," he said to applause from the crowd.

Only about 10 people registered their support for the big-box development, including Sophie Douglas, a 21-year-old retail worker who says she wants a job closer to home.

"That's how developing cities works," she said.

The developer told the board that the proposed big-box project would generate 500 new jobs.

Others who expressed support for the project were heckled by the crowd.

"North Kildonan's underdeveloped and it's getting to be like the core," one man told the board, as others yelled, "Oh, come on!"

"I'm sorry, guys, but you definitely need to develop it," he responded.

Browaty said the City of Winnipeg cannot stop the proposed big-box development from being built, since it's in the RM of East St. Paul, but he said he can make it an island of sorts.

"Their plan calls for Gateway to be built to the city limit.  We don't have to let them do that, number 1," he said.

"Number 2, we can physically put a blockade up at Glenway and the city limit."

Browaty said the 2½-hour meeting ended with the board chair suggesting a decision on rezoning the property would likely come in January at the earliest.

With files from the CBC's Chris Glover


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