A Winnipeg Christian private school can go ahead with its plans to expand, after a city council committee denied an appeal by nearby residents who oppose the expansion.
Westgate Mennonite Collegiate has a $7-million plan that would add about 4,700 square feet by replacing an old section of the building, putting a new atrium at the front, expanding to the back and adding an elevator for accessibility.
The plan already has city approval, but residents from the Armstrong's Point neighbourhood say it could mean more students coming to the school, which would draw more traffic into their historic area.
About 80 members of the Armstrong's Point Residents' Association — and about 100 school officials, students, parents and other supporters of the expansion plan — made presentations at a six-hour-long meeting of the city's appeals committee on Thursday.
By mid-afternoon, the committee denied the association's appeal.
"Westgate has been a part of that community forever, and they need the expansion space," Coun. Jeff Browaty, a member of the committee, said after the meeting.
"At this point, they needed accessibility. They weren't talking about something that was, you know, grossly overpowering for the community. I think it was the right thing."
School has expanded before
Residents who live near Westgate argued that the streets around it are too narrow to handle the increased traffic an expanded school could bring.
The school, which has expanded at least twice before, is stretching the boundaries of the city's zoning bylaw with each expansion, the residents argued.
In 2008, the city shot down a much larger expansion proposal that Westgate had put forward — one that would have been three times the size of the current plan.
On Thursday, Westgate students and their parents argued that the current proposal is a compromise between what the school needs and what the neighbours want.
"We appreciated that the councillors were able to discern the key elements of the proposal [and] that the redevelopment was going to make the facility safer and also bring it into the 21st century," Westgate principal Bob Hummelt told CBC News.
Group may consider legal action
Jim Fielder, a member of the Armstrong's Point Residents' Association, said the group may take the City of Winnipeg to court.
Fielder said the city is violating its own zoning bylaws by allowing the expansion to go ahead.
"I believe that the city must as well respect the fact that the citizens expect and desire that the city will operate within its bylaws so that everybody is treated equally," he said.
Browaty said the appeals committee's decision is the end of the case.
Construction at the school could begin as early as next fall.
The fight over the Westgate expansion plans started to turn ugly earlier this week, when a number of neighbours' protest signs were knocked over or taken from their lawns.