City of Winnipeg wants back land it had swapped away

Expropriation hearings started on Thursday for a slice of what's known as the Parker Lands.
Those rallying for the preservation of the Parker Wetlands say the green space is home to rare birds and plants and that the city’s own assessment department has labelled it as an environmentally-sensitive natural heritage area. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

Expropriation hearings started on Thursday for a slice of what's known as the Parker Lands.

The City of Winnipeg needs the property to build a massive retention pond — part of the Cockburn-Calrossie sewage project. It would mitigate basement flooding and sewer overflows into the river.

The pond would also assist drainage for the second phase of the bus rapid transit line to the University of Manitoba.

However, there has been a lot of opposition to the Parker Lands development from those who say the green space is an environmentally sensitive natural heritage area that is home to rare birds and plants.

Also opposed is the owner of the Parker Lands, Andrew Marquess, who is fighting the expropriation.

The city wants back what it once owned

The city originally owned the Parker Lands, but swapped it to Marquess's company, Gem Equities, in 2009.

The city wanted nine acres of Marquess-owned land for Winnipeg Transit's first phase of the bus rapid transit line and offered the developer the 59-acre Parker Land parcel in exchange.

The two properties were valued by city staff at a $1 million each, and the swap was approved by council with $1 exchanging hands.

Engineers and planners later determined that the city needed to get back part of the Parker Lands — approximately 20 acres — to build the retention pond.

Big pipe versus pond

The Cockburn-Calrossie sewer project is a $80-million effort to improve water storage and flow for several neighbourhoods.

Engineers looked a numerous options, but essentially three were at the top of the list: construct two smaller retention ponds, a single larger pond, or install massive pipes up to nearly three metres in size to move the water quickly instead of storing it.

Consultants and city staff ultimately determined that installing the big pipes would be more costly and create a traffic nightmare on Pembina Highway during more than a year of construction work.

Engineers determined building a retention pond on the Parker Lands would require smaller pipes — just over a metre in size — that were less expensive and disruptive to install.

KGS Group engineer Ray Offman told the expropriation hearing on Thursday morning that "the pond option looked very attractive compared to the no-pond option."

KGS Group is the lead consultant engineering company on the Cockburn-Calrossie project.

Ultimately, the city decided on a single large retention pond on the Parker Lands and tried to negotiate with Marquess for the land, but he declined the offers.

The expropriation hearings are scheduled for three days.


  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly connected the retention pond project specifically to the expansion of Winnipeg's rapid transit line. In fact, the project is required to mitigate basement flooding.
    Sep 24, 2015 7:47 PM CT


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