A controversial land swap between the City of Winnipeg and a developer has been approved, potentially spelling the end to a natural park area used by area residents.

Under the deal, the city will hand over about 25 hectares near Taylor Avenue and Waverley Street in exchange for four hectares along the Fort Rouge railway yards. The city requires the latter section for its rapid-transit corridor and related developments.

Meanwhile, Gem Equities is hoping to use the large tract of land it received to build about 3,500 townhouses.

But residents say the influx of housing will destroy a green space that contains mature trees, trails, grasses, a marsh, a willow forest and a nesting hawk.

Coun. Justin Swandel said the deal has nothing to do with development. It's not about future uses of the site, he said, adding that if and when Gem Equities wants to proceed with development plans, the company will have to go through the proper processes and get approval.

"This land swap is about us being able to do our transit garage expansion, not development on these lands," he said.

Consultation wanted

Coun. John Orlikow, who represents residents in the Taylor and Waverley area, said people aren't entirely opposed to development but they would like to be consulted.

He said the talk about townhouses has caught them off-guard.

"They just want to know that they're a part of it," he said, adding that setting aside part of the land for a park is something he would like to see the developer consider.

To ensure nothing goes ahead without the residents' input, Orlikow added an amendment to the land swap deal. It requires Gem Equities consult with the community before putting shovels into the ground on any project.