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Neighbours upset ‘eyesore’ structure in Charleswood given OK despite lack of permits

Click to play video: 'Charleswood residents and a city councillor speak out after a building that violates city policy was allowed to stay as-is'
Charleswood residents and a city councillor speak out after a building that violates city policy was allowed to stay as-is
A Charleswood resident says he’s upset a neighbour isn’t facing consequences for a massive, newly-constructed ‘eyesore’ of a garage. Iris Dyck reports. – May 2, 2024

A Charleswood resident says he’s upset a neighbour isn’t facing consequences for a massive, newly-constructed ‘eyesore’ of a garage.

The 4,200-square foot building — well over the size city bylaws allow — is located on Liberty Street, south of Wilkes Avenue.

Despite having no permits or approvals for the project, the homeowner was allowed to keep the property as-is by a city appeals committee, contrary to a public service recommendation.

Mike Maskell, who lives a few doors down, told 680 CJOB’s Connecting Winnipeg he fears the move could set a bad precedent and encourage other Winnipeggers to build without the proper approvals or input from neighbours.

“The building went up… without any stamped approvals, without a zoning variance to alert the neighbours about his intent to build such a structure,” Maskell said.

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Maskell said he’s not the only community member frustrated by the decision. Darren Van Wynsberghe’s property is adjacent to the building in question.

“What this has done, it’s created a very bad precedent in the area, in Charleswood and everywhere in Winnipeg,” he told Global News.

According to a report by the city’s Planning, Property and Development department, the structure is four times the maximum permitted square footage allowed on the lot, and 10 feet higher than permitted.

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The report was prepared after a city inspection and is dated April 3, 2024. It recommends the city deny the owner’s application for a zoning variance, and that the structure is “not consistent with Plan Winnipeg and any applicable secondary plan.”

The Property and Development Committee rejected the zoning variance, but property owner Tylan Unruh appealed the decision. The Appeal Committee voted 3-1 to allow Unruh the zoning variance, provided he plant trees to better hide the building from neighbours’ view.

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“I’m just very disappointed that those group of councillors and Brian Mayes, who was the chair, allowed this building to stay,” said Van Wynsberghe.

The Unruhs hired professional planner John Wintrup to help with the permitting process. Wintrup says the Unruhs were unaware of the zoning and permitting bylaws when they started building, and have since paid the resulting penalties.

“They apologized to the City of Winnipeg. They apologized to their neighbours. They’ve gone through an appropriate process of doing that. They face fines and fees, which they’ve paid,” Wintrup said.

“It was an error on their part. A lot of Winnipeggers make that error.”

In a letter to Global News, the homeowners said their garage was an improvement over the previous one on the property and many of their neighbours supported their decision to build anew.

“Our garage was built to replace a 3,200 square foot existing structure that was decrepit, an eye sore and unsafe,” said the Unruh family, adding that the property is a multi-acre hobby farm and not a regular-sized city lot.

“The current garage is well secluded and can’t be seen from Liberty St., sitting 350 feet from the road. It is aesthetically much more pleasing than the existing unsightly group of adjoined outbuildings.

“Further to this we had 87 signatures of supportive neighbors regarding the garage.”

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They add they hold no animosity toward Van Wynsberghe, who was a friend before the dispute.

Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood Coun. Evan Duncan says the city doesn’t want to encourage residents to find bylaw loopholes, but his frustration is less with the resident himself and more with the committee that made the decision to allow the garage to remain as-is.

“I think that this sends the wrong message to Winnipeggers — that essentially you can build a structure and beg for forgiveness after — and if you get the right committee sitting at appeals that it’ll just be given the OK,” Duncan told Global News Winnipeg.

“I think unfortunately there is a mentality that ‘the permitting process is too difficult, so I’m going to go about it anyway and if I get caught, I end up paying whatever fines’… that’s not the way we want to do business here.”

Appeal Committee Chair Brian Mayes says it’s not the first time an oversized building has been allowed to stay, referencing a 2017 infill development in St. Vital that started without building permits.

“I’ve been putting up with complaints in my ward for about six years, and people were looking at big walls going up two feet from the property line,” he said.

“People were upset with me when I couldn’t stop that from happening. It just speaks to the need to overhaul, and frankly, get some sort of planning commission in place.”

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