Many Factors – Maintenance & New Developments
I’m receiving many emails on maintenance in Bridgwater Trails and Bridgwater Centre. Please know this is a top concern of mine also – and that it is a weekly conversation with maintenance staff in the City and Province.
I want to present the facts so residents can review EACH of these points – and understand the details of each scenario. It is easy to look at just one aspect and be upset and point fingers, but building a high end development on farm land is an involved process with MANY intertwined scenarios.
Please know – I am NOT ‘passing the buck’ but ensuring people have the ‘big picture’. Just last week, I took representatives of Manitoba Housing, the Minister responsible for Manitoba Housing, and the area MLA on a tour of Bridgwater Trails to discuss the issues. Please also know the maintenance will improve – Bridgewater Trails and Bridgwater Centre are active construction sites, and like Bridgwater Forest and Bridgwater Lakes, things will come together when the construction ends and residents settle in.
THE DEVELOPER – MANITOBA HOUSING:
Manitoba Housing is a department in the Province of Manitoba. There are many different divisions within the department. Land Development is one division. For a variety of reasons, the Province decided to get into the land development business and develop 900+ acres of farmland into “The Neighbourhoods of Bridgwater”. The Province of Manitoba has never ever undertaken a residential land development project this large – ever. This is the department’s first time doing a land development this large, and there have been many opportunities and many challenges and many lessons learned for the department. Manitoba Housing’s land development branch does not have the decades of experience of other major residential land developers (Ladco, Qualico, Genstar, etc) so – there have been some challenges. I work with the key contacts at Manitoba Housing weekly – there are multiple issues to be worked through – and they will be addressed (trees / fencing / drainage / etc.) I have limited control over what they do and when they do it. This is a Provincial department and your elected representative is MLA Jon Reyes. I am in constant contact with him on this issue regularly, and most recently took Minister Squires for a tour of the area to discuss issues and concerns. Minister Squires oversees Manitoba Housing.
HOMEBUILDERS & EMPTY COMMERCIAL LOTS:
Manitoba Housing sells lots to homebuilders. It is Manitoba Housing’s responsibility to ensure the homebuilders are keeping their lots tidy and maintained. Clearly this is not happening and weekly I am on the phone to Manitoba Housing. Manitoba Housing is a Provincial department and your elected representative is MLA Jon Reyes. I have little to no control over homebuilders other than calling them directly – which I do. Manitoba Housing is also responsible for ensuring upkeep of empty commercial lots that have been sold. All of the lots in Bridgwater Centre have been sold. Manitoba Housing has clauses to ensure the ‘construction zones’ are kept as tidy as possible, and has clauses to ensure land is maintained if construction hasn’t started. Yes, there are some accountability issues as we clearly see some aspects are not being adhered to. Please know I am keeping Manitoba Housing updated on any issues that evolve related to commercial construction zones.
NEW HOME OWNERS:
There are many first time home owners in the Waverley West ward. Many of the homeowners have lived in countries where land and home ownership was not possible. There are many things to learn about owning a new home, landscaping, care and maintenance is one such aspect. Feel free to reach out to meet your new neighbour, and help them understand the City of Winnipeg’s by laws. You can download this Long Grass information sheet and provide them a copy to help them understand the by laws and prevent a by law officer from visiting. This can be done in a ‘helping’ vs ‘telling’ approach. I’m not asking you to take this on, but of course, any help alleviates pressure on the system. In a recent drive around I noted at least 65 homeowners were not in compliance in one newly developed area. By law officers will be sent out to educated and inform and seek compliance. In time, the majority of residents will learn and understand the neighbourhood liveability by laws and will adhere to the rules.
COMPLAINT BASED SYSTEM:
The City of Winnipeg’s By Law enforcement division operates on a complaint based system. You must report a complaint to firstname.lastname@example.org to have a by law officer come out to investigate an issue. Virtually every City in Canada works on the complaint based system. Currently, this is the system in place that we are working within. Would I like it to be more proactive – for sure – and will be advocating for change in the upcoming budget process – with a new Mayor.
TWICE THE GREENSPACE – NEIGHBOURHOODS OF BRIDGWATER:
The Neighbourhoods of Bridgwater is the ONLY residential development that has twice the amount of public greenspace than any other development in the City of Winnipeg. Developers are required to allocate 10% of the land to public greenspace – Manitoba Housing allocated 20% to public greenspace for The Neighbourhoods of Bridgwater. When Manitoba Housing completes phases of development, they hand the maintenance responsibilities over to the City of Winnipeg. Upward of 300+ acres of public greenspace has been added with many new developments in the City of Winnipeg (Sage Creek, Amber Trails, etc.) BUT the parks operating budget has remained flat many years. The Mayor and his budget working group have not increased the operating budget. Every year, I and a few other Councillors make the case to increase parks operating funding – but have had no success in increasing the budget as other priorities rank higher. I am optimistic a new Mayor will recognize the value of maintained public greenspace, especially as COVID has motivated more people to experience outdoor spaces. Till then, the parks department is working to keep up with the public spaces they have taken ownership of from the developers.
- Parks operating budget in 2015 – $37.6 M
- Parks operating budget in 2022 – $39.73 M
- See Parks Maintenance Funding.
Going forward, I will be organizing a Green Team for next year to assist in general maintenance in our parks and heavily used public spaces. A Green Team is a Provincially funded program that employs youth for summer. The time frame for the youth to work is from spring to fall. It’s a super summer job for students. A few years back I had set up a Green Team – youth were based out of Waverley Heights Community Centre and they were working in Bridgwater Forest area. Because we had no restaurants (public washrooms) it was very difficult to be effective as it was a distance and took time to go back and forth for bathroom and lunch breaks. We learned a lot from those efforts and now, with the fast food restaurants in place, we can better accommodate a Green Team. Washrooms and lunch facilities are really important when working outside!
CONSTRUCTION VS COMPLETION:
If you look at Bridgwater Forest and Bridgwater Trails – maintenance is happening and things are looking good. Yes, there are a few homeowners that are still figuring out their responsibilities, but it is dramatically better than it was when it was in the initial construction stages. Bridgwater Trails and Bridgwater Centre are active construction zones. Manitoba Housing has upwards of 5 different landscaping firms working in the area on trees / drainage / new sod and more. The neighbourhoods will be spectacular when they are complete. This transition from farmland to high end development takes time and does not always go as smooth as everyone would like.
As always, if you have any comments, please email me.