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http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/expropriation-a-bumpy-road-217343321.html

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Expropriation a bumpy road

Would-be purchase prices rejected for CentrePort route

More than one-third of the owners of properties expropriated to make room for CentrePort Canada Way have balked at the purchase price -- setting the stage for the highway's property-acquisition budget to exceed the provincial target.

Since 2010, the province has expropriated 261 hectares of land in northwest Winnipeg and the RM of Rosser to make room for a $212-million highway to serve CentrePort, an industrial development taking shape near Richardson International Airport.

The new road, which remains under construction, runs from Inkster Boulevard and across Sturgeon Road before connecting to the Perimeter Highway.

The province expropriated a total of 31 parcels of land to make room for the highway and proceeded to attempt to negotiate purchase prices with the former property owners, according to the provincial Crown Lands and Property Agency.

Those negotiations have resulted in only two settlements to date, while 16 others have yet to be negotiated and may wind up in a contested hearing before the provincial Land Value Appraisal Commission.

'They're using non-payment to negotiate: "Take my offer or you won't get paid for years." It's what someone would do in private practice, but governments should be held to a higher standard.'

 

-- Rocky Neufeld, a land appraiser who represents some of the property owners

 

Another 13 properties are already heading into contested hearings, which were supposed to begin in May but have been pushed back to September.

"It may be that in and of itself says something about whether or not people feel they're being offered a reasonable amount for their properties," said Antoine Hacault, a Manitoba lawyer who deals with expropriations and represents some of the property owners.

Crown Lands has set aside $7.1 million to compensate the owners of all 31 properties and has already spent $5.4 million on preliminary payments, according to the province.

Rocky Neufeld, a land appraiser who represents some of the property owners, said he doubts the remaining $1.7 million will be able to cover the negotiated or contested settlement of the 29 other parcels of expropriated land.

"It's a tremendous shortfall someone has left them with," said Neufeld, surmising the cash-strapped province will be forced to find the money somewhere else.

But Crown Lands maintains it's offered a fair price for the expropriated land.

"We've done a thorough investigation of the properties. Our appraiser has done his work. We're comfortable in the numbers," said Ken Dzogan, the agency's former land-acquisition officer, earlier this year.

The CentrePort Canada Way property acquisition amounts to one of the largest sets of involuntary expropriations Crown Lands has ever made, added Dzogan.

His agency prefers to settle expropriations through negotiation, he said. "We recognize this is an expropriation. No one came to us and said, 'Please buy my land.'

"The owner didn't come to us with an offer to sell, so they ought to receive every vehicle they're entitled to. At the same time, we're keenly aware we're paying taxpayers' dollars."

In theory, property owners are entitled to compensation for the cost of hiring lawyers, land appraisers and planners to assist their side of the fight. Neufeld said in this instance the province has not covered those fees for his clients, who are left with mounting costs while the contested-hearing process crawls toward resolution.

"It could be years before these cases are ever brought forward," said Neufeld, claiming this is a deliberate provincial tactic. "They're using non-payment to negotiate: 'Take my offer or you won't get paid for years.' It's what someone would do in private practice, but governments should be held to a higher standard.

"Legal counsel, the owners and appraisers want these things brought forward in an expedient fashion."

In a statement, the province said compensation issues are complex and it's attempting to work out fair settlements as quickly as possible.

Hacault, the expropriation lawyer, said the province must balance the needs of taxpayers with those of the property owners.

"From my perspective, people should be entitled to the reimbursement of their reasonable expenses on an ongoing basis," he said.

Property owners who reject provincial purchase offers have two years to appeal to the Land Value Appraisal Commission. The province is obliged to pay whatever amount the commission determines must be paid.

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 29, 2013 B1

Rezoning of farmland to make way for CentrePort

Revamping the zoning regime in the RM of Rosser to allow for CentrePort development is now underway and will likely see about 445 hectares of land changed from largely agricultural to industrial use.

An open house and public-design review was held this week as part of the process that will allow for industrial development within the CentrePort lands that fall within the RM of Rosser.

The area designated for the first zoning update -- north and south of Inkster Boulevard and west of Brookside Boulevard -- is the most developed to date and the area where there is the most demand from developers.

Bob Brown, CentrePort project co-ordinator for the RM of Rosser, said he was pleased with the results of two meetings held this week each with about 70 to 80 people in attendance.

'The city says it is protected. I don't know what else to say. The land-use plan is to protect that green space. CentrePort has (8,093 hectares). It does not need Little Mountain Park's (65 hectares)'

"We were looking to accomplish two things -- a draft amendment to the current Rosser zoning bylaw to more reflect the CentrePort vision and we wanted to get some recommendations on design standards that could apply in the first instance in the targeted area."

The design standards would not apply to the buildings in the industrial parks north and south of Inkster that have already gone up, but they might eventually become standardized through the CentrePort footprint.

Although there have been concerns expressed that existing green space -- including Little Mountain Park and the Players Golf Course -- would somehow be compromised in the process, officials from the RM of Rosser and CentrePort stressed that would not be the case and they would remain green space.

Brown said Rosser's zoning bylaws have been in place for about 25 years -- most of the land is zoned agriculture or limited agriculture or highway commercial -- and are not suitable for the development that is occurring and contemplated for CentrePort.

"CentrePort is meant to be an industrial development so it's not profound to say we're looking at different categories of industrial zoning," Brown said.

The exercise in establishing a new zoning protocol in the RM of Rosser is part of a larger process to make the whole CentrePort area into a seamless development plan for both the lands in the RM of Rosser and the CentrePort lands that are part of the City of Winnipeg.

"Part of the CentrePort intent is to have planning provisions in place that allow streamlined and efficient administration of the process that's not encumbered by a lot of red tape," Brown said. "We're striving for zoning that is well-defined but easily spelled out and something you could work with without an overabundance of complications in applying it."

When it comes to the green space such as the City of Winnipeg-owned 65-hectare Little Mountain Park, north of the Players Golf Course, there are no plans to rezone that.

Brown said if at some point the City of Winnipeg or the owners of the Players Golf Course decide they want to sell the land, it would have to go to a public hearing process.

People who use the dog park that's within Little Mountain Park have expressed concern that somehow industrial development will encroach on those lands.

But an official from CentrePort said, "The city says it is protected. I don't know what else to say. The land-use plan is to protect that green space. CentrePort has (8,093 hectares). It does not need Little Mountain Park's (65 hectares). It's just not needed."

Brown said the plan is to come back with a draft review of the recommended new zoning bylaws in September for further public consultations with the final product finished in October.

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 27, 2013 A8

I did an interview with CBC, here is the story.

Will new inland port rid Rosser of its green space?

Green space could be snapped up by industrial development, RM staff say

Posted: Jul 26, 2013 6:28 AM CT

Last Updated: Jul 26, 2013 12:43 PM CT

The city of Winnipeg and CentrePort say Little Mountain Park will be preserved, but an advisor to the RM of Rosser says the land may eventually become far more valuable for industrial development instead. The city of Winnipeg and CentrePort say Little Mountain Park will be preserved, but an advisor to the RM of Rosser says the land may eventually become far more valuable for industrial development instead. (CBC)
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The rural municipality of Rosser is laying out the welcome mat for CentrePort, an inland transportation hub slated to be built in the area.

The RM held open houses this week as it begins the process of re-zoning the land to allow development of the inland port.

Bob Brown, the RM's advisor on CentrePort issues, said more people turned up than were expected, including some people concerned about the future of Little Mountain Park, a green space in the area.

'You're not going to see … golf courses or … dog parks … because that's not what inland ports are all about.'—Bob Brown, advisor to RM of Rosser

Centreport and the city have both said the green space will be preserved, along with Little Mountain Sportsplex and a privately-owned golf course.

But Brown said as CentrePort is developed over the next few decades, the land will likely become more valuable for its commercial and industrial potential.

"If CentrePort is successful, that's the type of use that will predominate in the area," he said. "You're not going to see other typical urban uses probably, including golf courses or recreation areas or dog parks ... because that's not what inland ports are all about."

Brown said it's the market that will eventually decide what CentrePort, a 20,000 acre transportation hub, will look like.

"Nobody is going to be forced to vacate, be it a residence or a dog park. But if CentrePort is successful, the market will eventually probably encourage people to leave because their lands will have more value for development purposes than what they are for current uses, and people will take that option and sell off probably."

He said use of the park may even die off as development progresses.

"You're not necessarily going to be driving ... through an industrial area to get to a spot to walk your dog," he said.

There may even come a day when a golf course in the CentrePort footprint, The Players Course, disappears.

Brown said it's an option any land owner can consider, such as when the city recently mulled selling off John Blumberg golf course in the RM of Headingley.

'The province is going to do what the province is going to do, and there's not a damn thing anybody can do about it.'—Lloyd Johnson

"If ... they are surrounded by viable commercial industrial type activities, and they're in this to make money, then probably at some point they'll say, 'We can make more money selling this off than we can from green fees.'"

Winnipegger Lloyd Johnson attended some of the RM's sessions this week and came away very disappointed.

He said he and others who are worried about Little Mountain Park wanted to have their say but that didn't happen.

"Basically they were not too interested in what we had to say at all," he said.

He said he did talk with officials with the RM of Rosser but that didn't go very far either.

"I got the distinct impression that their hands were tied as well, like the province is going to do what the province is going to do, and there's not a damn thing anybody can do about it," he said.

Johnson said he and others will keep lobbying to assure the park's future.

But he admits it is probably inevitable the park will eventually disappear as CentrePort grows.

"I think it's terrible. I think it's a crime against everybody," he said. "This is a historic area. It should be preserved. It's green space that the city loves to tear up. Anything green they want to plow under, and it'd be just a crime to see this disappear. It's part of the fabric of the city of Winnipeg. We have to protect it."