Developer's lawyer vows to take City of Winnipeg back to court over Parker lands

The Parker lands development has hit another hurdle in the property's 11-year history with Winnipeg's city hall as councillors on the property, planning and development committee voted against allowing the plan to proceed.

Two city committees have now ruled against development plans, but battle may be far from over

Vote on fate of the controversial development now goes to city's executive policy committee. (Gem Equities)

The lawyer representing developer Andrew Marquess says the City of Winnipeg is still in contempt of court and vows to take a years-long dispute over development on a parcel of land back before a judge.

That follows a vote on Friday by city council's executive policy committee against allowing Marquess's proposed Parker lands development plan to proceed.

It was the second rejection of the plan in as many days. On Thursday evening, councillors on the city's property, planning and development committee also voted against it.

The votes come almost a year after a judge ruled the city was in contempt of court for not holding a hearing on the development, as ordered following an earlier court proceeding.

The appearance of the plan before the property and development committee Thursday was supposed to satisfy the August 2019 contempt order.

But lawyer Dave Hill, who represents Marquess, says the committee meeting did not "purge" the contempt order issued by Queen's Bench Justice Candace Grammond.

"The committee should have held a public hearing for the zoning [of the project] with 14 days notice to the public to attend," Hill said.

Developer Andrew Marquess and his lawyer Dave Hill, show here in an August 2019 photo, persuaded a judge to find the city in contempt of court for not proceeding with a hearing on the plan for the Parker lands development. (Bartley Kives/CBC)

The order for a public meeting was at the heart of Grammond's contempt ruling.

Marquess has been trying for years to get approval for a development called Fulton Grove, on 47 acres of land (known as the Parker lands) in Fort Garry, near the recently opened leg of the southwest rapid transit corridor.

On Aug. 6, 2019, Justice Grammond ruled that the city had intentionally violated her order to hold a public meeting on the development and found it in contempt.

Those legal issues continued to reverberate at Thursday's property committee meeting, with one councillor leaving before the vote, citing serious concerns about legal issues surrounding the decision.

"I am not confident we are in compliance with the judge's orders.… I will be departing and not voting at all," Waverley West Coun. Janice Lukes told her colleagues on the committee before walking out. 

"She was right to be worried," Hill told CBC News on Friday. "We will have to go back in front of the judge and ask for a stronger penalty."

'Plan is not ready yet': Councillor

Property committee members Matt Allard (St. Boniface) and Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) rejected rezoning the 47 acres, as recommended by the city's planning department.

Property, planning and development staff say the plan for the site is inadequate and missing important content and doesn't meet the city's "land use mix criteria."

"This plan is not ready yet. There are a number of issues with it that need to be worked out, [but] we can hear it again," Allard said Thursday.

Property committee chair Brian Mayes (St. Vital) carefully criticized the decision of his fellow councillors to reject the plan, mindful of the legal implications of what was said at the meeting.

Mayes said there has been "very, very little development around the rapid transit corridor, despite its price tag over $450 million and promises of 'transit-oriented development.'"

The city's executive policy committee took up the matter on Friday and voted 6-1 against the plan and zoning changes. Mayes, who sits on EPC as well as the property committee, was the lone vote for the project.

Marquess obtained the Parker lands property in 2009 in a land swap with the city, which wanted some of Marquess's property for the Southwest Transitway. Property, planning and development staff say the plan for the site is inadequate and doesn't meet the city's 'land use mix criteria.' (CBC News Graphics)

Marquess has fought the city in two court actions as the administration has rejected his plans for the property. 

In one, he accused the city of changing the process as he was going through it, and a judge ordered the city to hold a hearing on the development.

In a separate court case, Marquess alleges abuse of power by the city during the process. He's asking for at least $30 million in damages as compensation for lost revenue due to delays of his project planned for the Parker lands.

Marquess obtained the property in 2009 in a heavily scrutinized land swap with the city, which wanted some of Marquess's property for the Southwest Transitway, which now runs alongside the planned development.

Bowman told reporters Friday he has to be careful with his comments because city council will vote on the plan next week.

He did say he wants to ensure is the city is following the court's direction and wants to see development along the rapid transit line.

"On the broader question of 'do we want to continue to see development in the city and as well as development along this particular transit corridor' — the answer is of course. Of course I do," he said. 

"We've been seeing the development occur along this transit corridor in recent years."

With files from Bartley Kives