ACTION: April 26 Appeal Committee

The City Appeal Committee meets to decide the fate of two infill housing projects this Friday (April 26, 2019).

The Committee meets in the City Council building at 510 Main Street at 9:00 AM.

To speak at the Committee, show up before 9:00 AM to register with City staff. You may still be able to register after 9:00 AM, however. If you are unable to attend the 9:00 AM start meeting (where individual appeal items can last over three hours), consider contacting committee members with messages supportive of infill housing.

Committee members

Compared to many other Appeal Committee meetings, the agenda for this one is brief. There are two appeals involving lot-splitting and one for a sign. In terms of supporting density-increasing infill development, only the lot splits are of concern.

Hostility to lot splits (where a large lot is divided into two smaller lots, each of which then has a dwelling built on it) drives a lot of the conflict over infill development. This includes the push for a more restrictive Residential Infill Strategy. Lot splits in older suburban neighbourhoods neighbourhoods are a way to modestly increase density. Often, however, concerns with “compatibility” with the neighbourhood and complaints that smaller yards means these developments “aren’t for families” are used to oppose lot splits.

Preventing these types of developments limits our housing choices. All families don’t have the same preferences for yard sizes and opposing the type of taller houses on narrower lots that characterize urbanizing neighbourhoods dampens the benefits of infill. Benefits from infill include leveraging existing infrastructure for more residents, more property taxes for the same area size and lower housing costs (compared to similarly new dwellings built on larger lots).

Below are facts about the two specific developments.

127 COLLEGIATE STREET IN  BRUCE PARK (ST JAMES WARD)

This is on a 50 foot lot zoned for single family houses currently containing a 1 1/2 storey house. The proposal is to demolish the existing house. The lot would then be split into two 25 foot lots and each lot would have a two storey single family house on it. This would mean going from one 5,424 square foot lot to two 2,712 square feet lots. Approving these developments, the Board of Adjustment and Winnipeg Public Service attached conditions: the new houses couldn’t be more than 30 feet, no front driveways are to be built, no new garages are to be built attached to the any principal dwellings, and that each house needs needs an entrance facing the front yard among other conditions.

An appeal is being filled against the decision of the Board of Adjustment to allow this project to go through. YIMBY Winnipeg recommends people register in opposition to this appeal. 

Complaints against the project: The appellant notes the area is unique, close to Assinboine Avenue, with a mix of lot sizes that add character. They say changing lot sizes will “ruin the area” by altering the character. They also say it will result in fewer trees, less green-space and more people which will overload sewers.

Key Points in Support 

  • All Winnipeggers have a stake in efficient land use. Because of inefficient, sprawling and auto-centric land use we have suffered from brown water, overstretched budgets and services as well as the prospect of property tax hikes. Increased density can help us better manage our infrastructure obligations in the coming years.
  • As an inner suburb near a major transit route, Bruce Park is an ideal spot to increase density. A slightly higher than city average share of residents commute by bus, according to the 2011 Census. The spot would be ideal for transit-riding home-seekers.
  • There area already 25 foot lots in the area and they do not make the neighbourhood any less beautiful. More housing per foot of frontage on the sidewalk even adds diversity and uniqueness to the neighbourhood.
  • These new builds will add to the housing stock and provide more housing options for those who want to join the Bruce Park/St. James Village community.
  • A short-form subdivision application was sent to various Winnipeg departments. None of the departments identified concerns. That presumably would include imminent sewer overflows. Winnipeg’s old sewer system does need upgrading and renewal. Having more tax-generating properties in the same area like this will help Winnipeg more painlessly foot the bill for this.
  • Opposing the infill development outright is not the only way ensure tree cover. Conditions like having an arborist report, a tree management plan or a tree replacement requirement could be added to the variance.

1032 DUMAS AVENUE IN MAYBANK (RIVER HEIGHTS – FORT GARRY WARD)

This is on a 50 lot zoned for single family houses and currently contains a 1 1/2 storey house. The project would demolish the existing house and split the lot into two 25 foot lots. Each of these new lots would have a two storey single family house on it. This development would be subject to conditions, including that no garage shall be built attached to the houses, no front approaches shall be built, house height shall be limited to 30 feet, houses shall have entrances facing the front yard and that the existing driveway be removed (at no cost to the city) and the sidewalk restored.

The Public Service of Winnipeg recommended approving this, but the Board of Adjustment rejected the variance application. An appeal is being filled against this rejection from the Board of Adjustment. YIMBY Winnipeg recommends people register in support of this appeal.

Complaints against the project: The Board of Adjustment claimed this project was inconsistent with Plan Winnipeg, creates a substantial adverse effect and is incompatible with the area. A member of the Board of Adjustment reject the Public Service’s description of an existing 25 foot lot, claiming there were only thirty feet lots nearby so having 25 feet lots changes the character of the neighbourhood.

Past complaints from opponents of the project have focused on the smaller yard sizes, character and new house costs.

Key Points in Support

  • Maybank is an inner suburb ideal for infill development. It’s near a major transit route and close to a commercial stretch of Pembina Highway. This can provide an ideal housing option for transit riding home-seekers.
  • Many different home-seekers have different preferences for yard sizes. Since developers continue to build houses with smaller yards, obviously there are at least some of us who don’t mind them and look for other features when buying a home.
  • New houses generally have higher asking and sale prices than older houses. Nevertheless, only allowing new houses to be built on 50 foot lots would result in even MORE expensive houses than new builds on 25 foot lots.
  • This project will remove a driveway, adding to the pedestrian and walkable fabric of this city, at no cost to the City’s public treasury. This is a great for Winnipeg.
  • Every Winnipegger has a stake in infill development. Increasing the property tax base per square foot of area eases the burden on all of us for renewing our infrastructure. This development will do just that.