Manitoba

Councillors concerned over potential for province to override city land-use decisions

Members of the property and development committee raised concerns Monday about the province's plan to create an oversight body that could override Winnipeg land-use decisions.

Municipality best to deal with planning and property decisions, say Winnipeg elected officials

Some Winnipeg city councillors say while the current appeals process needs work, they have concerns about the possible creation of a provincial body that could override their decisions. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Members of Winnipeg's property and development committee raised concerns Monday about the province's ambition to create an appeal body that could override Winnipeg land-use decisions.

Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital), chair of the property and development committee, said while the city's system is far from perfect, he isn't thrilled about the prospect of another layer of provincial bureaucracy.

"I'm not embracing the idea of a quasi-judicial provincially appointed tribunal," said Mayes.

"Then people might go through all of this process and still have a further right of appeal."

On June 11, the Manitoba government released a dozen recommendations relating to municipal land-use practices. One of the recommendations calls for the creation of a quasi-judicial tribunal that would hear zoning, permitting and planning appeals.

Made up of provincial appointees, the body would be able to override land-use decisions made by city council. 

Coun. Janice Lukes (Waverley West) agrees with Mayes that the current model has problems but also questioned whether the power to make city land-use decisions should be with the province. She believes Winnipeg would benefit from a planning commission that is still under municipal control.

"I'm actually very supportive of the planning commission," she said.

Improvements needed; councillor

Coun. Kevin Klein put forward a motion to ask the public service to provide a report on what a planning commission could look like in Winnipeg. The motion was laid over and will be considered on Sept. 4.

Mayes says his skepticism about a provincial body stems from living in Toronto and dealing with the now-defunct Ontario Municipal Board, a body previously criticized for favouring developers in its decisions about zoning. The board in Ontario was replaced by a new agency, with fewer oversight powers, last year. 

"That Ontario model troubles me that [appeals] would end with an unelected body, on the other hand I don't think our current model is really fair to either side," Mayes said.

Mayes says right now appeal board members rotate and do not always know or follow reasons why previous iterations of the board voted for or against land-use issues such as granting developers variances to build a building wider or taller than rules under Winnipeg's bylaws.

"We have these marathon hearings, people come out, it just depends on which rotation of which committee you get hearing the matter," said Mayes. "I think we have to do something."

Members from both the city's public service and the province are set to discuss planning oversight at their next meeting on Wednesday.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura Glowacki is a reporter based in Ottawa. Previously, she worked as a reporter in Winnipeg and as an associate producer for CBC's Metro Morning in Toronto. Find her on Twitter @glowackiCBC and reach her by email at laura.glowacki@cbc.ca.

with files from Bartley Kives, Leah Hansen and Mike Crawley

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