More than 60 people packed City Council chambers during a meeting last week to continue the debate on the proposed multi-family and commercial developments on the corner of 15th Street and Highway 14. Council passed the re-zoning with a 5-1 vote changing the community reserve and single family residential land to multi-family dwelling and commercial residential during its second reading. However, due to its opposition the development plan for eight condominiums and a proposed 22,500 sq. ft. of retail space on the corner will go to the MSTW (Morden Stanley Thompson Winkler) Planning District board for another public hearing. Residents opposing the development sited issues of increased traffic congestion and safety concerns for pedestrians crossing on 15th Street, as well as objections to multi-family housing on the property. Mayor Martin Harder explained while there are no plans at the moment, four-laning or even adding a third lane on 15th Street is an option. The City also continues to lobby the Province for traffic lights at the corner of 15th Street and Highway 32.
“We want to find the best solution to traffic congestion on 15th Street,” Councillor Ron Neisteter said, adding the City Transportation Committee will be doing a full review of 15th Street in September.
However, for many it came down to multi-family development objections on the property. “I’m really disappointed,” Reg Derksen said. “We do not want this kind of development. We want single family units.”
Councillor Herb Dyck suggested multi-family housing is simply unavoidable in Winkler. “It’s just what happens when you live in a growing city,” he said.
Harder explained the City has seen tremendous growth in its industrial sectors and is only now catching up with demand for rental housing.
“We have to balance from Council’s perspective, what makes sense, what brings attraction to our community whether it’s a variety of housing and what makes the community look right,” Harder said, adding the hearing is about taking the community’s concerns and working towards a solution.
“Frank came up with some tremendous solutions,” Harder said. “Frank has made adjustments and we appreciate that. The outcome we would like out of this is some understanding of each other and to try and figure out if this is going to work.”
Developer Frank Klassen addressed issues brought up by the public during the rezoning’s first reading at last month July 23 Council Meeting, explaining he believes the plan will be a great addition to the city as an upscale development for young families and residents 55 plus.
While some residents took issue with the possible congestion and lack of green space in the 96 units development plan with a site coverage of 26 per cent, Klassen explained he goes above and beyond the City of Winkler Zoning By-Law which would allow up to 193 units with a site coverage of 60 per cent.
Some who attended were also in favour of the project. “I like the area, but I’m not interested in building a big house and taking care of it,” David Loewen said. Another explained they liked the idea of a convenience store they can walk to, while one resident suggested young people appreciate these types of developments. “I have friends that live in them, take care of them. They look great,” Russ Dueck said. “Frank has taken more than the average steps to make this look good. Not everybody’s going to like it but I just want to make sure that people know there a lot of people that are not opposed to this.”