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The Carillon - ONLINE EDITION

Maplewood rezoning fails to impress council

By: Grant Burr

Posted: 08/22/2018 9:00 AM

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Plans for a 44-unit townhouse apartment project on Maplewood Street will not move forward after Steinbach city council rejected a rezoning application on Tuesday night.

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Plans for a 44-unit townhouse apartment project on Maplewood Street will not move forward after Steinbach city council rejected a rezoning application on Tuesday night.

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Maybe a poop emoji would have lightened the mood.

What moment applicant Elmer Toews lost Steinbach city council's favour is hard to say, but as he recited an expletive laced text message it was clear this wasn't going to be a run of the mill rezoning application on Tuesday night.

Council denied the developer's pitch to transform nearly a block of Maplewood Street properties, following an expression of overwhelming opposition from neighbours.

Toews said his plans to convert eight residential lots into 44 townhouse apartment units along the east side of Maplewood Street, between Loewen Boulevard and Stone Bridge Crossing, would follow successful developments he has completed La Broquerie.

He even suggested Steinbach councillors contact their La Broquerie counterparts to confirm his good work.

In 2016, one La Broquerie council meeting exploded into a shouting match between a councillor and LUD member, after that council approved the expansion of one of Toews' projects, despite LUD opposition.

As Toews shared with Steinbach council on Tuesday night, it hasn't all been roses in the city either.

"Your affordable housing will turn into a giant s---hole, just like Maplewood is now," Toews said, earning a gasp or two from the packed council chamber as he read a text of opposition he received on his cell phone.

The developer faced plenty more opposition on Tuesday, though no more censoring was required.

Albert Street resident Doug Mack came armed with 84 signatures from area residents objecting to the project.

"To this point the developer has not earned our trust," he told council.

Maplewood Street resident Randine McLean Wiens noted Toews has owned the subject properties for a decade and invested little in them.

"What makes him think he's going to maintain the townhouses that come in?" she wondered.

McLean Wiens and Mack, along with others, pointed to concerns about increased traffic in the area, some saying the neighbourhood has become a drag strip.

Councillor Michael Zwaagstra tried to confirm with Toews about his plans for the project, asking if designs presented at the meeting reflected what would be built.

"That's not set in stone," Toews replied. "But it's the kind of stuff I've been building."

Toews struggled to explain those design plans in detail, which also left councillors hesitant to offer approval.

Zwaagstra recommended denying the rezoning request, arguing Toews' presentation was inadequate. Councillors Jac Siemens, Cari Penner, Earl Funk and John Fehr all backed the motion. Councillor Susan Penner was the lone voice of support for the project, suggesting concerns about the project could be ironed out as part of a development agreement.

"There was a little bit of clarity needed. There needed to be a little more interaction with neighbours to try satisfy and mitigate those concerns. This is a significant change, so it needs a lot of work and interaction with the community," said Councillor Cari Penner following the meeting, which she chaired in the absence of Mayor Chris Goertzen.

Zwaagstra told The Carillon he wasn't opposed to the idea of a larger development in the neighbourhood, but said the importance of a clear presentation cannot be overstated.

"I'm not comfortable approving something vaguely in principle, where there were just so many things raised that weren't really answered."

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