Winnipeg in talks over homes on planned rapid transit route
City may have to expropriate Parker Lands, which was part of 2009 land swap
Some Winnipeg residents are just finding out their homes are in the way of a planned $590-million expansion of the city's bus rapid transit line past Jubilee Avenue to the University of Manitoba.
The city has identified portions of at least 35 existing properties where the new route will cross. Those portions range from a few square metres of land to an entire house on Parker Avenue and two duplexes on Chancellor Drive.
Among those who will be affected are Maureen Pearase and her family, who have rented a suite from one of the duplexes for the past three years.
Pearase said she didn't know she'll have to move until news reporters asked her about it on Thursday morning.
"We weren't sure what was going on with this whole rapid transit, so [it] kind of came as a shock to have the news crews at my door first thing this morning," she said.
Pearase said she hasn't heard from her landlord about when she might have to relocate. In the meantime, she does not like the prospect of having to move.
"I love it here. The kids are all around here. It's a very family-oriented place," she said. "It's five minutes from my work — I have a five minute walk to work."
City staff are in the process of negotiating with all affected property owners along the BRT line.
Controversial land swap
The City of Winnipeg may have to expropriate 25 hectares of land it swapped to Gem Equities, a property developer, in a controversial land deal in 2009.
Attempts to negotiate with the landowner have failed so far and the city is preparing to expropriate the land if a deal can't be reached.
The property, known as the Parker Lands, is needed to build the Cockburn-Calrossie sewer drainage project. The city placed a value on the property of $1 million in 2009 when it swapped the land to developer Andrew Marquess.
The retention pond project is part of the rapid transit expansion plan.
The city did the land swap with Marquess to acquire four hectares of land it needed for a transit garage.
The land deal was controversial at the time and was singled out in a recent audit of city real estate transactions. That audit has been forwarded to the RCMP for review.
There was criticism at the time that city staff didn't do a complete valuation of the Parker Lands and a council decision to carry out the land swap was rushed through the process.
"I thought the land swap was a terrible idea and I still do to this day," said Coun. John Orlikow, who chairs council's property and development committee. "But again, I thought many decisions in the last four years were terrible ideas."
The city needs a further 1.8 hectares from Marquess to construct Phase 2 of the BRT line to the university. A purchase price for that land was already established when the original land swap was completed.
A report to the property and development committee says negotiations with Marquess to buy the land for the sewer project have not progressed and expropriation is the only option to obtain the land in a timely manner.
Orlikow said city planners didn't start to appreciate the need for the retention pond until after the deal was done with Marquess.
"The optics are horrible. All that I can say is … the project is really needed. It has to happen," he said.
"I've done my due diligence and done my research as far back as I can. I don't see anything nefarious going on."
It's not clear how much it may cost for the city to require the land.
With files from the CBC's Sean Kavanagh