April 19, 2012

Notes from our March 27th meeting with St. Vital Councillor Mayes

Thanks go out to Lorraine Iverach, Alisa Bromley and Larry Pucknell, the SVG working group members who were able to attend the meeting and David Tanenbaum and Sean Fedorowich who were unable to attend but provided their insights beforehand.   
We started the meeting by making Mr. Mayes aware of St. Vital Greenspace’s position regarding the Canoe Club Golf Course:
·         We do not want the city to sell the property at all;
·         The currently leased property was not a drain to the city;  that as long as someone was willing to keep leasing the Canoe Club Golf Course and run it as a private business, it should be allowed to continue as such; 
·         There is an historically proven community desire to maintain this small, inexpensive, and less challenging golfing opportunity for recreational golfers of all ages; 
·         The existing green space is the last vestige of historic Elm Park, the first city park in Winnipeg; 
·         The green space provides a visual and physical breathing space to traffic corridors in the area.
·         If the city wants to explore alternative uses for the property it must engage the public in meaningful community consultation regarding what alternative uses, if any, the community is comfortable with.
·         Any alternative plans for the property should be developed by the City of Winnipeg according to the feedback gathered during the public consultation.
·         St. V Greenspace does not view consultation regarding a developer’s plan for the property as being meaningful public consultation and would oppose such a consultation process. 
Mr. Mayes made us aware of challenges for the property:
·         Small golf course of only 9 holes, split by a significant roadway.
·         Much like many of the river properties in the area, the Canoe Club GC has riverbank stabilization issues that need to be addressed which will impact the golf courses profitability. 
Mr. Mayes also provided some insight into his position and that of the city:
·         He was elected with a mandate to work on behalf of the community groups to save the green space and he is open to hear our views
·         The Mayor seems supportive of maintaining green space but is not necessarily supportive of maintaining those spaces as golf courses. 
We then gave Mr. Mayes some historical context regarding the past discussions regarding the Canoe Club property:
·         Community has had several rounds with the city regarding protecting this space from development. 
·         Community reluctantly agreed to the development of condos on the Canoe Club property to allow for the revenue needed to maintain the property as a golf course.  There is some resentment that after that concession that we may be engaged in a second round of discussion when we were told that the condos would provide sufficient revenue for the course.
·         There is some resentment regarding the gradual eroding of the green space at the Canoe Club; we conceded and allowed condos in the 90s, now we may be asked to concede further green space, at what point will we no longer be approached regarding further development of the property.  At some point we will be forced to say enough is enough. 
We then went around the room and the members of the working group gave Mr. Mayes some insight into what we may hear from the community if a consultation were to occur.
·         Though it was agreed that the status quo was ideal for the community, it was conceded that maintaining the Canoe Club GF as a golf course over the long-term may be a challenge given the riverbank issues. 
·         We spoke briefly about what type of development may fit within the community; i.e. small scale residential development (single family/small condo) with adequate setbacks from existing properties.  No large apartment buildings or high rise units.  No commercial development. 
·         We spoke about concerns regarding increased traffic and parking in the area. 
·         Also spoke briefly about what type of community use development may be good for the area; i.e. soccer fields or passive park area.  Again concerns were raised regarding parking and traffic. 
The meeting went really well.  The general feeling was that councillor Mayes is trying to find a solution that will work for the city while also working for the community but that first and foremost he wants to ensure that the community has a say in whatever happens with the property, if anything, and that the community is heard.  He provided us with his thoughts that the city may be leaning toward entering into community consultations regarding each course individually and that the city may make this public in the next couple of months.  We made it clear to councillor Mayes that if the city wishes to engage the public they need to do that shortly or our group, as well as others around the city, may ramp up our efforts to lobby the city to do so.  It would be better for the city to announce public consultations rather than looking as though they caved to public pressure.  In the end we agreed to keep in touch regarding the issue.
-Grant Prairie