Winnipeg mayor not sure fines on developer would pass court test
Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz isn't sure a decision to fine a developer $170,000 was the right move.
The city's property and planning committee voted on Tuesday to penalize Andrew Marquess for building two apartment blocks in part on land he promised to save as community park space.
Katz says the committee may not have understood that Marquess owned the land where he constructed the buildings.
"I believe that if the committee had known that the lands were always owned by the developer who purchased them quite a long time ago, they probably would not have come up with the original numbers," he said Wednesday.
Marquess built the two multi-family buildings partially on land zoned as a parks and recreation district. They were rezoned that way to accommodate a privately owned but publicly accessible community park.
The city sold some nearby park land to Marquess, with the expectation he would install a new community park in a more strategic location.
Marquess and city reached an agreement for the new park based on submitted plans, but that agreement was breached when the two buildings were found to have been built in part on the promised park land.
The developer then approached the city to rezone the land to accommodate the buildings as they now sit.
Because of the location where the buildings were constructed, the city's property and planning department found the previous agreement "meaningless," and recommended the zoning be changed.
When the city sold the nearby land to Marquess, his company put up $100,000 to ensure he would build a new community park. Those funds have now been forfeited to the city and will be used for park purposes elsewhere in the community.
Councillors on the property and planning committee voted this week to add a further $70,000 penalty.
On Wednesday, Katz wondered if the city's move would have held up in court.
"There is really a differing opinion on whether the city even has the opportunity, if we went to court, if we could actually do what we were talking about doing, but it appears everybody has accepted the $170,000," he said.
Katz acknowledged the buildings should not have encroached on the promised park land.
"Everybody has to play by the rules. If you are my neighbour and I build a garage on your property, I have to play by the rules … technically you can make me tear it down," he said.
The head of the city's property and development department told reporters the huge penalty sends a signal to the development community that it must live up to agreements.
But Katz wasn't sure the right decision was made.
"This is a unique situation where it was on their own property and a decision was made by the committee and obviously by the councillor [Point Douglas Coun. Mike Pagtakhan]," he said.
Katz says he is just an "acquaintance" of Marquess, who he sees rarely and does no business with him.
Marquess denies he built the two buildings without proper permits, but says he will still construct a community park on the land anyway.