A local developer is frustrated that after a years-long struggle to build a $75-million high-rise downtown, the City of Winnipeg now plans to open a dog park next door.
Rubin Spletzer, CEO of Crystal Developers Ltd., calls the city’s decision to open an off-leash pooch park beside Heritage Landing “insane," citing a list of concerns from traffic congestion to a loss of property values.
“How would you like to have a $70-million building and you put a dog park beside it, right there. I don’t think you would enjoy that. Neither do we," Spletzer told Metro during a recent interview at his 25-storey apartment complex at 300 Assiniboine Ave.
“If they’re going to place it the way they designed it right it next to me, my whole building is going to lose about 10 per cent on value, which is around $7 million.”
“I will fight the city that the taxes have to then be reduced accordingly."
More specifically, he said a lot of design work went into ensuring the façade of the building overlooking Bonnycastle Park— where 0.15 hectares of land will be turned into an off-leash dog area— met the city’s requirements
He calls it “annoying” that tenants looking outside a large window in the lobby and entertainment room will now see dogs running around.
Spletzer's concerns have resulted in delays to the dog park opening, according to Coun. Mike Pagtakhan, who chairs the committee on protection, community services and parks.
“The city was wanting to hear what the concerns were and to see if we could allay some of those concerns,” Pagtakhan said.
Last July, Mayor Brian Bowman— who campaigned on a promise to open an off-leash dog park downtown— announced that Bonnycastle Park had been picked as the future location of the off-leash area after an online survey where 1,800 people responded.
At the announcement, the city said construction on park amenities — like new fences, waste bins and lighting — was supposed to start at the end of the September or beginning of October and last up to four weeks.
Then last October, municipal communications manager David Driedger told Metro that after talking with different stakeholders, “it was determined that some design revisions had to be made and as a result we've run into some delays.”
Pagtakhan says Bonnycastle Park maintains the city’s preferred location for the downtown off-leash dog site.
He said the city's chief administrative officer, Doug McNeil, is still working to resolve the issue, but couldn't specifically say how.
The next step is for the city's urban design advisory committee to review the design of the park and recommend any changes, Pagtakhan said.
His goal is to now see the park open by late summer or early fall.
Spletzer, meanwhile, has little hope the city will make design changes that solve his concerns.
“There’s a lot of tenants that already said if the city puts up that dog park in here, we’re moving out,” he said, adding that since the apartment complex opened last month, there are 26 tenants in the building’s 234 spaces.
Despite an open house and online survey about where a downtown dog park should go, Spletzer--who also owns 90 Garry Street-- says the city didn’t properly consult with neighbours of the park, many of whom are seniors.
He also questions the suitability of the location since seven of the high-rise buildings in the area do not allow pets.
“Now I know, dogs need a place to run around. And I know the mayor has promised somewhere, but why choose the most attractive park and destroy it for a dog park?”
Some of his concerns pre-date the dog park plan, and involve an overall frustration with the city over what he characterizes as an uphill battle to get the high-rise built in the first place.
In 2008, the company got the go-ahead from the city to build a 15-storey apartment complex near Upper Fort Garry, but the project was met with public backlash over concerns the site’s history would be destroyed.
Spletzer says they eventually agreed to a deal involving former mayor Sam Katz to purchase land in the Broadway-Assiniboine area and build the high-rise there instead.
He says issues arose after discovering Manitoba Hydro lines buried underneath the land which equalled a costly removal and more delays.
“Now they’re putting a...dog park beside it.”
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Dec. 06 2017
Parks was just notified by Stantec Consulting Ltd. that the RM of Rosser will be closing Farmers Road from Klimpke Road to Brookside Boulevard as early as next week for a construction project to install water main along Farmers road. The closure is estimated for six weeks. Due to this, the North side access points will be closed off to all traffic; vehicular and pedestrian including the parking lot on Farmers Road.
I have requested Stantec Consulting Ltd to send us any updated information about this project. Once I have it, I’ll pass on the information to you so you can notify your members. As far as I understand, Klimpke Road should be open during the construction period and our parking lot on Klimpke Road will be available for park users.
From the Parks board
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A note from our naturalist services department,
“Just wanted to let you know that we are planning to do some removal of an invasive shrub, European Buckthorn, from Little Mountain Park today. This will involve cutting down the shrubs and then treating the cut stumps with Glyphosate. We will mostly be using hand saws/loppers , but may use a chainsaw as well for a few of the larger plants. This work will not be noticeable once complete, but there may be some concerned park users when they see us working there so I wanted to let you all know!
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Parks left out in the cold
Department squeezed by green space that's expanding and a budget that's not
Winnipeg’s city parks division expects to spend another year struggling without an increase to its operating budget.
Parks manager Dave Domke said his division won’t get an increase in 2017.
"In 2016, the budget was $38 million and in 2017, it’s $37.9 million — relatively flat overall," Domke told councillors on the protection, community services and parks committee that reviewed his division’s proposed budget for the coming year.
'Parks are crucial to the quality of life of our city. It is so short-sighted for the city to underfund and cut our parks. Parks are infrastructure, too'-- Coun. Russ Wyatt (above left)
The parks budget has been essentially unchanged for three years.
In September, the committee endorsed Domke’s proposal for another $2.8 million in the 2017 operating budget and forwarded it to the budget process for consideration. As in previous years, it wasn’t approved.
The spending handcuffs placed on the parks division is startling. While there is a planned 3.8 per cent increase in total department spending from 2016 to 2017, none of that is allocated to parks.
In contrast, the increase to the police budget is 2.6 per cent (1.3 per cent adjusted); the fire paramedic service budget is going up 4.7 per cent; public works, 6.7 per cent; water and waste, 6.2 per cent; community services, 3.1 per cent.
"Parks are crucial to the quality of life of our city," said Coun. Russ Wyatt, one of the four councillors who reviewed the division’s budget Friday. "It is so short-sighted for the city to underfund and cut our parks. Parks are infrastructure, too."
An attempt by Wyatt (Transcona) and Coun. Ross Eadie (Mynarski) to increase the parks budget $700,000 annually for the next four years — to cut grass on boulevards — was blocked by Couns. Mike Pagtakhan (Point Douglas) and John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry).
Domke said he’s had to juggle priorities to stay within budget. The division is planning cuts to athletic field maintenance ($150,000), park pathway maintenance ($80,000), park planning ($256,000), tree planting ($36,000) and playground management ($257,000).
There will be additional spending in park grass maintenance ($134,000), park amenity maintenance ($254,000) and weed control ($42,000).
The problem facing the parks division isn’t new. In September, Domke told councillors requests for additional funds have been repeatedly rejected. His division lost 10 full-time staff from 2010 to 2015. The budget book shows there’s been another drop of 20 staff since 2015.
Suburban growth added 250 acres of new park space from 2010 to 2015, but his department doesn’t have the budget or the resources to touch a blade of grass in those areas. Domke said it would cost another $1.2 million for maintenance in the suburbs. There’s no money for that in the 2017 budget.
Coun. Janice Lukes complained to the committee Friday that the division is unable to maintain open spaces and boulevards in her south Winnipeg ward, demanding that the city needs to take a new approach to park maintenance.
Lukes said homeowners in her ward are paying property taxes that are three to five times higher than that charged to homeowners in other areas, yet they receive no parks services and few other civic services.
"The present model isn’t working," she said.
Domke did offer the committee some unexpected news. Capital spending for the department is set for $9.3 million in 2017, up from $8.3 million this year.
Read more by Aldo Santin.
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The garbage cans are back on the trails.Thanks to everybody that made contact with our City about this. Also, trenching is going on on the West side. The west parking lot is cut off.
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With the removal of the garbage cans the bags are starting to build up! I have written the Parks people but no answer as of yet. Kristie and the Dog Club have written as well. A letter to the Mayors office will be going out tonight.
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