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Lemay Forest saga heading to city hall

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As residents in St. Norbert fight to keep the Lemay Forest in tact, development plans for the land are going before a hearing at Winnipeg City Hall Monday, but city planners want the project significantly scaled back.

Property owner Tochal Developments is asking for a variance to build an assisted living facility with 5,000 beds and 2,500 units.

Planner John Wintrup represents Tochal.

"If council wants to address the housing crisis, climate change, as well as the reconciliation journey, I suggest to them they approve the application." said Wintrup

City planners are recommending councillors reject the plan, saying it would triple the population of the area and would create adverse impacts including safety concerns.

They said shrink it to 791 units.

Wintrup said that's too small, and he believes the city is trying to block the development.

"A 71 per cent reduction in density, that just kills the project." said Wintrup

The hearing aside, Wintrup says they’re planning to do prep work including felling several trees this summer, starting as early as Saturday.

"I would say more than 80 per cent of the property we're looking to clear cut the land."

Area residents like Bruce North and Cat Macaulay Gauthier are on edge, worried about the impact on their neighbourhood and the loss of the trees.

"So that's very alarming for all of us,” said North. “I say we feel a little bit vulnerable.”

"We can't just get rid of trees and forests for the sake of profits,” said Gauthier

The forest is landlocked so road access points for the development would be through a strip of city-owned land on the southwest corner off Pembina Highway. A home at 823 Lemay Avenue would also be demolished.

Efforts by governments, non profits, and the Manitoba Metis Federation to buy the land to preserve it have been unsuccessful. MMF President David Chartrand hopes a sale can still be brokered with the owner.

"If we sit down and look for something that would make them comfortable that still made a lot of profit, and leave something that has so much meaning to so many people,” said Chartrand

The hearing agenda report also says the city was made aware in May of a historic cemetery on the Northwest quadrant. It says there are remains of infants, children, mothers, and nuns connected to a former orphanage.

If approved, a buffer zone would be set up around that site, and no development would be permitted there.

“The mass majority of all the kids there were Metis,” said Chartrand.

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