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Concerns about residential development in new plan
Jul 30, 2010
Creating a new development plan for Winnipeg is a daunting task, but one nonetheless essential to helping guide and shape the future of our city.  While flexibility needs to be built into a long-range planning document, groups such as the Manitoba chapter of the Urban Development Institute (UDI) have to be assured the city is haded in the right direction. 
The UDI  represents residential, commercial and industrial land developers, as well as professionals in engineering, legal survey, banking, planning and the architecture. As a key player in our city and province, it’s not surprising UDI made a presentation during the July 14 public hearing on the proposed Our Winnipeg plan. 
The UDI said at the outset that they support any plan or initiative that:
• Recognizes the importance of market trends and conditions. 
• Helps in making development more sustainable.
• Is flexible, but adds certainty to the development process.
• Is equitable.
The UDI’s first concern was the city having a plan that looks 20 years into the future but only identifies a 13-year supply of residential land. In their words, this is not logical and somewhat misleading.
Another important concern the UDI pointed out is that in order to accommodate new growth, the city will have to rely heavily on a theoretical supply of residential land including centres, corridors, downtown, redevelopment lands, infill and transit-oriented development (TOD). 
What is the cost-benefit or fiscal impact analysis of these various forms of development? How do they relate to market preferences? Will subsidies be required for some alternative forms of housing? 
The bottom line is that the UDI recommends the city take a cautious approach to focusing growth on unproven markets.
In identifying the development of “New Communities” in this plan, an important consideration not acknowledged is that much of this suburban land has servicing constraints or other restrictions to development such as fragmented ownership. There was no discussion on how these lands will be serviced or when this may occur.  A development plan should provide the framework for the servicing of land.  
The UDI calls for the city to take a proactive approach to planning its land supply, not a reactive approach. The city cannot rely on developers to undertake large-scale regional transportation and servicing planning, which is a municipal responsibility that does not seem to be addressed in this plan. However, it is understood  a transportation master plan will be completed at a later date. 
The UDI reminded the EPC members of council that there is no such thing as a just-in-time supply when considering land development. The UDI’s members cannot simply turn on the development tap and serviced lots suddenly appear. The Waverley West process took approximately five to six years to get from concept to commencement.
By identifying additional suburban land as New Communities in Our Winnipeg, the plan does remove one small step in the development process. The UDI still questioned if consideration was given to all options or alternative areas to develop. One that comes to mind is the Planned Development Overlay for the airport area. It does not allow for any residential development. Why not? 
The UDI’s Jerry Klein, of Genstar Development Company, made a submission on Our Winnipeg on airport area development. Below are some excerpts from his letter to the city :
“Genstar is a major stakeholder in the CentrePort lands and owns approximately 10 per cent of the CentrePort Lands (located within the far west portion of the holdings) within the city of Winnipeg. Genstar is disappointed with the CentrePort planning process and now the lack of policy direction in the Our Winnipeg planning documents as they relate to the airport area. Genstar has held these lands for many years with the intention of commencing another residential development on a portion of the lands in the near future.
“The intent and objectives as prescribed by CentrePort are to create an area that will be an inland port to promote intermodal facilities for handling goods through road, rail, air and marine; a Foreign Trade Zone to promote international trade and ultimately to create and develop viable industrial and commercial uses within the designated area. While these stated objectives are of great merit and beneficial to the growth of the city, these employment lands are being planned by CentrePort to be totally void of providing any complementary residential land uses. 
“This would therefore mean that the CentrePort plan is contrary to and opposite to the philosophy and stated sustainability objectives being promoted and recommended by the city of Winnipeg Public Service in its Our Winnipeg document. Under section 01-1City Building, it states, “Combined with research into land use, we can see some consistent objectives: Create Complete Communities (which) need to support a range of options for living, working and playing. The daily necessities of life should be within reach …, (and) Provide Options for Growth. It will mean opportunities for more mixed-use areas, combining residential with retail, office and light industry.”
“It is already recognized that the St. James area has been limited in its opportunities for growth of new major residential development for many years. There is significant demand to create more and newer sustainable residential uses in the area to complement the existing infrastructure. However, the CentrePort initiative has now under its current plan eliminated any possibility of providing the much needed residential land uses where they would otherwise logically be  located if the CentrePort plan not been implemented. The lands designated as  airport area far exceeds both the amount of land and location of airport area lands required to protect normal airport operations and airport related land uses from conflict with other land uses. The Our Winnipeg documents are lacking any input, commentary or opinion on these lands and are therefore deficient in planning for a significant part of the city of Winnipeg. 
Two final points raised by UDI were that the city has to be more willing to look at the entire Capital Region in the context that current boundary issues should not be viewed as set in stone, and that more clarification from senior city planners would be helpful in determining what exactly they mean by Complete Communities. Does it include a South Pointe or Sage Creek? 
Moreover, UDI expects to be directly involved in developing what the city refers to as an “Implementation Toolbox” and a “Complete Communities Checklist,” since they will be the ones creating these complete communities.