Airport opposes residential development at Polo Park

The Winnipeg Airports Authority is against changing an area use plan around Polo Park that currently restricts residential development.

Councillors move along request from developers for land-use changes around massive mall

The Winnipeg Airports Authority sees 24/7 flight operations as crucial, and fears proposed changes to a city bylaw might restrict its ability to deliver on the 'interests of the community.' (Louis-Philippe Leblanc/CBC)

The Winnipeg Airports Authority will not clear residential development around Polo Park for takeoff — at least not the way it's being proposed so far.

A request, however, to change the area's land use plan by two developers — Toronto's Cadillac Fairview, which owns the Polo Park Shopping Centre, and Winnipeg's Towers Reality Group — will still move to a next phase, despite the opposition.

The two companies have asked the City of Winnipeg to change its Airport Vicinity Protection Area Secondary Plan (AVPA) around Polo Park. The bylaw restricts residential development in the area in order to avoid noise complaints.

The airports authority's concern is that James Armstrong Richardson International Airport's status as a 24/7 landing and takeoff facility would be threatened or lost, as has happened at airports in other cities.

"We've been able to avoid a lot of that by having a really good planning process in place in the city, where we've restricted the residential area around the airport where noise is going to be a factor," said Tyler MacAfee, vice-president of communications for the WAA.

"To now move ahead and amend that is going to put us in a situation where we've seen in other cities. So, we know how this story ends. It ends with people having these issues between the airport and residents."

MacAfee made the comments following a Wednesday meeting of the city's property and planning committee. The airports authority has sent a letter to Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman and Brian Pallister, whose Progressive Conservative government is seeking re-election, outlining their concerns.

The director of the city's property and planning department, John Kiernan, told councillors his staff has been in discussions with the WAA about the proposal. The two developers have also been talking to the authority, Kernan said.

"The department may or may not be able to broker a consensus on this one. There are two different perspectives, perhaps. We are trying to bring them closer," he said.

The councillors on the committee voted to move the request from the two developers to a first reading of city council, which would pave the way for a community committee hearing on the proposal.

A request by Transport Canada could sidetrack that by asking for the matter to be heard in front of the Manitoba Municipal Board — but that is rarely done.

MacAfee says the WAA doesn't want to close the door entirely on development opportunities for the city.

"There's a path that can be followed and I think … there may be a solution to this where where everybody wins," he told reporters.

"We're driven by the interests of the community.… The airport exists for the benefit of the community."

The committee voted to move the proposal along in the process to a reading in front of city council, but its chair, Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) expressed concerns.

"I'm leery of doing anything that would negatively impact the 24-hour status of the airport," Mayes said. He was the lone councillor to oppose the motion.

If it makes it past a first reading of city council, the proposal would next appear in front of the city's Assiniboia Community Committee.


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