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Thunderbird Restaurant owner takes City of Winnipeg to court over missing land records

A Garden City-area restaurant owner is taking the City of Winnipeg to court, looking for lost land records it says will stop the construction of a new Starbucks next door.

The Notice of Application was filed at the Court of King's Bench Wednesday by Niata Enterprises, owner of the Thunderbird Restaurant at the corner of McPhillips Street and Jefferson Avenue. 

It asks the City's archives and planning departments to explain why property development records of the area weren't kept properly, and to try and find the missing records from third-party sources.

The legal action stems from a dispute over the property next to the Thunderbird at 920 Jefferson Avenue, currently home to a Freshco supermarket. A new Starbucks is slated to be built in the parking lot there, but Thunderbird owners say the coffee shop's drive-thru will cause safety and traffic issues.

Peter Ginakes' parents founded the Thunderbird in 1961. He says the city shouldn't have approved the Starbucks development in the first place because his family had an easement agreement with the neighbouring property owners.

Ginakes said the Thunderbird has always been allowed use of the parking lot space where the Starbucks drive thru would be located, but he can't find records of the agreement in the city archives.

He also says the Starbucks building plan doesn't match what was originally approved for the space, but he can't find records of any variance approvals either.

"Over four decades, there's no records," said Ginakes. "Four decades, there's no records of how this building was reshaped, moved, enlarged. And the city can't come up with the reasoning."

Ginakes is concerned the Starbucks is larger than was originally allowed for, which he says will take away from valuable parking in the area.

"An 1,100-square-foot building needs 21 stalls of parking…if the building goes to 1,500 square feet and you lose ten stalls of parking, that parking has to be replaced somewhere else."

He's also concerned the reduced parking will lead to more traffic, which will cause safety issues.

"You're going to have people circulating, looking for a place to park," Ginakes said.

Ginakes has spent the last two years in a legal battle over the issue, which he has now lost. On Thursday, the City's Executive Policy Committee voted unanimously for the Starbucks development to move forward.

"The public service recommended the plan approval. I looked at it, read it on the merit of the public service recommendation and everything I heard I believe it's a development that should proceed," said Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham.

Ginakes says the City's lack of records means it should re-examine the entire development plan.

"If the city doesn't have evidence of the variance, and if the city can't explain its records, then they’ve got to look at all the factors," he said.

The details in the notice of application have not yet been tested in court. Ginakes will make his case in a Manitoba courtroom on Oct. 5.

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