Monday, July 22, 2019

Manitoba land developer unclear why protesters chose his property

The owner of the Parker Lands says he’s mystified by the presence of protesters on his property, claims police are bolstering their efforts and says the City of Winnipeg is making him jump through an unusual number of hoops before he can build homes, apartments and townhouses.

In his first sit-down interview since protesters started camping out on his property, developer Andrew Marquess expressed a combination of frustration and confusion, not just with the people he calls “illegal trespassers,” but with Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman and law enforcement.

This fall, Marquess intends to ask the city to approve a plan to develop 1,740 housing units on a 19-hectare parcel of partly wooded land in what’s officially known as Winnipeg’s Parker neighbourhood, which straddles the second leg of the Southwest Transitway at the northern edge of Fort Garry.

The plan can’t be completed, he says, without technical information that can only be compiled after more trees are removed from the property.

That work stopped in July, when protesters set up an encampment near the western edge of the property in an effort to protect remaining stands of aspen, assert Indigenous property rights and effectively place the development on hold.

“We needed to clear some sites to get some elevations and we needed to do some geotechnical testing to even get a sense of really what the grading would look like at the site before we actually move on to anything else,” Marquess told CBC News in an interview on Wednesday, his first since a group of about 15 protesters set up tents on the Parker Lands.

Precise elevations must be determined in order to figure out how to grade and drain the site, something that has to be determined before the submission of a Parker secondary plan to city land-use officials, Marquess said.

The inactivity at the site is holding both this plan and a separate application to change the zoning on the parcel from industrial to residential land, said Marquess, adding he has no idea why protesters chose his property to make a point about the development of traditional Indigenous land.

“You have various people there with with, clearly, various causes other than on an Indigenous basis. To follow that up, I’ve never received a phone call from any Indigenous organization to suggest that there should be consultation,” Marquess said.

“They’re not protesting the Waverley underpass site. They’re not protesting the BRT transitway. They’re not protesting anywhere on the north part of the site. They’re not protesting on the city-owned land where a retention pond is. They chose here. I don’t have a good explanation.”

Keep reading on CBC News

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