As critics weigh in, Winnipeg mayor taking 'wait and see' approach to 2 broad planning bylaws

Our Winnipeg and Complete Communities plans are in front of the city's executive policy committee. The bylaws would dictate everything from climate change and poverty reduction to density and infill guidelines for the city of Winnipeg.

Our Winnipeg and Complete Communities plans would guide growth and development for decades

Critics blast plans and even supporters offer faint praise and ask for changes. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Though available publicly for months, two major planning frameworks for the City of Winnipeg are now finally in front of politicians.

Councillors on the city's executive policy committee heard some support and blasts of opposition to the two proposals on Thursday.

Together, the Our Winnipeg and Complete Communities bylaws would set standards, limits, targets and rules for how the city grows and develops over the next decades.

Our Winnipeg is the broad, over-arching plan establishing targets for everything from meeting climate change targets to poverty reduction and sustainable transportation.

One planner told EPC members to think of Our Winnipeg as the "why behind the what the city will do in the future."

Complete Communities is about setting the rules — who can build where, how high can the buildings be, how dense can neighbourhoods become and other such standards.

When asked by reporters for his opinion on the two documents, Mayor Brian Bowman said he's taking a "wait-and-see" altitude. 

"I'm listening with an open mind. And what I would encourage my council colleagues that have concerns to propose amendments and work collaboratively with colleagues to make improvements to the document," Bowman said. 

Bowman heard an earful at the EPC meeting Wednesday.

Critics line up 

Mel Marginet with the Green Action Centre described Our Winnipeg as having "wonderful goals and objectives," but described efforts by the city to meet those goals as "grindingly slow" and was missing a process for clear execution and monitoring.

The head of the Manitoba Association of Home Builders told EPC members the Complete Communities plan has significant shortcomings, including the absence of a strategic master plan, that would outline the availability and design of services such as sewer, water and roads.

Lanny McInnes says the city has to go back to the drawing board.

"It lacks the accompanying tools for proper implementation. Lacks support and essential information and buy-in from the other departments critical to a successful implementation," McInnes said.

Charles Feaver, a Bike Winnipeg volunteer, challenged the city to show where in the plans active transportation was genuinely supported. (CBC)

Charles Feaver, representing Bike Winnipeg, spoke of the city not fully committing to active transportation routes and infrastructure.

"What the wording at the front of what you're approving today says is talking about shifting transportation to more sustainable modes and less reliance on personal vehicles. But when you dig into the plan, it's not really happening, Feaver said. 

City councillors lined up with their criticism as well.

Cost-benefit analysis not included

Coun. Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood) said neither plan has a cost-benefit analysis he believes is crucial to help determine where development should go and what requirements are necessary to meet climate change goals and other challenges.

"You need to have a cost-benefit analysis to make any decision. You need to know if development pays for development and you need to know the cost-benefit from infill to green space development or urban sprawl," Klein told CBC News. 

Coun. Kevin Klein says the proposed planning document lacks cost-benefit analysis for the guidelines on growth. (CBC )

As a non-member of EPC, Klein can't propose motions himself, so he says he has forwarded a number of motions to councillors on the committee to include the protection of riverbanks and the city's parks.

"If you look at the map, well, they haven't really outlined what they would do with parks. It's very vague and that's the problem with the city," Klein said.

Three Waverley Wests 

The city's planners see Winnipeg adding close to 82,000 new housing units over the next 20 years and the documents call for a 50/50 split to locate those homes in mature communities as infill and in so-called greenfield or undeveloped land.

Waverley West Coun. Janice Lukes sees that ratio as weighted too heavily on the greenfield side of planning, as she recalls the difficulties she's faced getting services to her ward.

"82,000 new dwelling units over the next 20 years, which is equivalent to three cities the size of Brandon … so I'm thinking, three Waverley Wests over the next 20 years and that terrifies me on many fronts," Lukes said.

The councillor also agreed with the development industry saying there is no infrastructure master plan in the documents, noting she's had to fight to bring services to her neighbourhoods — from fire protection and community clubs to transit links and schools.

The criticisms were taken in stride by the head of the city's property and planning department.

After hours of submissions, John Kiernan told the committee "the intent of the day for me and my team was to listen hard."

Kiernan acknowledged a strategic infrastructure plan was needed, but did push back gently about accusations the two documents didn't protect the city's park space.

"I do want re-establish my credentials as someone who cares about parks," Kiernan told EPC members, asserting that land was protected in parts of the documents. 


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