Manitoba

City council closes book on proposal to move West Kildonan library

Winnipeg city council decided not to move the West Kildonan library into the Garden City Shopping Centre, and will leave it in its current space on Jefferson Avenue.

Residents pushed to keep library in current space after finding out it could be moved to Winnipeg mall

Children hold up signs May 17 outside the West Kildonan Library urging the city to reconsider plans to close the space and move the library into Garden City Shopping Centre. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Supporters of a northeast Winnipeg library have rewritten the story on its proposed move to a mall.

"It's a huge sense of relief," said Daniel Guenther, a member of the Garden City Residents' Association, said following a unanimous vote by city council to leave the West Kildonan Library in its current location.

"This is a very good day for our neighborhood, but also just for our city governance as a whole," Gutenther said in an interview following council's vote Thursday.

A report delivered to council earlier this month recommended moving the library, which is currently in a Jefferson Avenue building constructed in 1967, to the Garden City Shopping Centre.

The city has been planning to replace the Jefferson Avenue structure since 2012. City property managers concluded it would be cheaper for the city to renovate the Garden City space and pay rent than to buy land and build a new library space.

But residents pushed back at the proposal, saying they knew the city wanted to move the library to another location, but they didn't realize that would be a mall. 

The library will still need renovations, Guenther said, but he and others in the community are happy council voted to leave it where it is.

"We definitely want to give credit where credit is due. We thank the educators and the students for standing up," he said, adding the residents' association is looking forward to telling students "they saved the West Kildonan Library."

The proposal opened up a debate among councillors, with some saying the city's library strategy is outdated and needs change.

Couns. Ross Eadie (Mynarski) and Devi Sharma (Old Kildonan) moved a motion to adjust population requirements to warrant a library under the city's recreation strategy — a long-term plan council voted on at Thursday's meeting.

That was defeated in a tie vote, but the main strategy was approved.

Short-term rental rules sent back

Thursday's meeting did not, however, result in any city-specific rules on short-term rentals, such as Airbnbs.

Council considered a proposal to ask city staff to research which short-term rental regulations would work in Winnipeg. 

Councillors chose to send the idea back to the city's property and development committee for more discussion.

Some ideas that came up during delegations include taxing rental owners like business owners, requiring the owner to live in the building, and requiring them to notify neighbours when guests are coming and leaving.

On Thursday, two Waverley West residents urged council to put rules in place right away. They detailed constant comings and goings of strangers, parties, and safety concerns.

Asmara Polcyn runs an Airbnb in Winnipeg's Spence neighbourhood. (Travis Golby/CBC)

But Asmara Polcyn, who owns a property rented out through Airbnb, said she and other owners want to find consensus. About 100 short-term rental owners are organizing to try to have their voices heard, she said.

Polcyn said she'd be willing to pay extra taxes, since that could bring legitimacy and tax breaks. But her biggest concerns were around privacy — especially the idea of a requirement to notify neighbours about guests.

"For anybody who's escaped a difficult relationship, anything like that, that is the last thing you want — strangers knowing when you're showing up and when you're leaving. It's a bit invasive."

A national group that advocates for short-term rentals to be allowed only in primary residences asked councillors to consider the potential for shifting housing and rental markets.

Fairbnb's Thorben Wieditz said on the Airbnb app alone, you can see about 100 hosts with multiple rental options, showing a trend he says is concerning.

"It removes housing that has been planned, designed, built, zoned as residential from the market," he said in an interview.

That results in "absentee landlords" and "introduces issues into residential communities and condo towers and neighbourhoods that otherwise would not be there," he said.

"That's why we we believe, looking at what's being proposed in Winnipeg, that the principal residence or primary residence requirement is a very useful tool."

Support for decriminalization

Council voted in favour of officially stating its support for other groups pushing for the decriminalization of possessing small amounts of illicit drugs.

Some of the councillors who voted against the motion said the province needs to take the lead on that issue.

"I invite city councillors to come down with me to the legislature," said Arlene Last-Kolb, an advocate with Overdose Awareness Manitoba and Moms Stop the Harm, who showed up with about five other women at the council meeting in support of the motion.

"If you feel that this work has to be done through the government, then join me," she told councillors.

"We have to show up at these things. Even though they're very difficult, we have to show up and remind them that they're talking about people," said Last-Kolb, whose 24-year-old son died from an overdose in 2014.

"They're talking about my son, her cousin, her daughter. That's what we have to remember."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sam Samson

Journalist

Sam Samson is a multimedia journalist who has worked for CBC in Manitoba and Ontario as a reporter and associate producer. Before working for CBC, she studied journalism and communications in Winnipeg. You can get in touch on Twitter @CBCSamSamson or email samantha.samson@cbc.ca.

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