New noise rules means developers can build more housing near airport, Polo Park

CF Polo Park. Google Maps

Local developers say they’re happy to see a barrier for building housing near Winnipeg’s airport be adjusted to allow for more flexibility in the area.

The province announced Thursday it had adopted the Airport Vicinity Protection Area under the City of Winnipeg Charter.

The new regulation means more housing near the airport can be built, so long as indoor sound mitigation protection is built into the housing.

“All new residential dwellings within the Airport Vicinity Protection Area must be designed and constructed to achieve indoor sound mitigation levels of 30 decibels in bedrooms, 40 decibels in living, dining and recreation rooms, and 45 decibels in kitchens, bathrooms, hallways and utility rooms,” said the province.

Story continues below advertisement

“For reference, the sound level of normal conversation is generally between 50 and 65 decibels.”

Cadillac Fairview, Shindico Realty Inc. and Towers Realty Group all have development projects either proposed or ongoing in the area.

Shindico lawyer Justin Zarnowski said the sound mitigation requirements was “a really practical way to deal with sound.”

No new residential can be built in Area 1, but Area 2 is now open. Province of Manitoba

The land around the airport has been divided into two areas based on flight paths and noise levels. Land closest to the airport, Area 1, cannot have new residential builds.

But Area 2 can see “new or replacement residential development” so long as the new development adheres to indoor noise level limits.

Click to play video: 'Both sides in Polo Park development fight release new info before council hearing'
Both sides in Polo Park development fight release new info before council hearing

The issue began in 2019 when local developers expressed interest in building up the area around Polo Park.

Story continues below advertisement

The designs include numerous housing and retail units on land that is currently zoned commercial.

Architectural renderings show a possible redevelopment of land around Polo Park. Shindico/Cadillac Fairview
The renderings show numerous low- to mid-rise apartment buildings surrounding Polo Park. Shindico/Cadillac Fairview

The previous airport protection area rules essentially prohibited any further residential development in the area due to sound levels from airplanes flying overhead, and the City of Winnipeg kiboshed the idea.

Story continues below advertisement

The Winnipeg Airport Authority was against building any new residential projects in the area as it did not want to deal with the inevitable noise complaints from citizens.

In a statement sent to Global News in 2019, spokesperson for the airport, Tyler MacAfee, said if amendments are made, “it would create unnecessary friction between citizens, local government, and the airport.”

“To prop up property values for a couple of developers isn’t in the best interest of the community,” MacAfee said.

However, said developers, the sound levels were based on outdated projections because newer technology means planes are not as loud as they used to be.

“We’ve spent a bunch of time and a ton of money trying to figure out the actual noise impacts,” Zarnowski said.

“And the reality is the airport’s done a great job flying in from the north. And so you can easily have people live around the airport.”

The new protection areas “mirror noise exposure forecasts prepared by independent experts and correspond to an ‘ultimate scenario’ where the airport is fully built out, including the development of a third runway” and running at maximum capacity, the province said.

Towers Realty Group, which has 17 projects in the area, said it was happy to see the new regulations.

Story continues below advertisement

“We believe in the St. James area. There’s proven desire in the community for quality rental properties, proximity to many amenities the area offers. We look forward to working with the city and area stakeholders to develop the area in a way that adds to the community while continuing to protect the necessary operations of our airports.”

The new regulations mean the city will have to update its bylaws to match the provincial standard, the province said. Once that is done, any new developments will still need approval from city council.

Sponsored content