A Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation plan to build overpasses along the Trans-Canada Highway in Virden has blocked the expansion of Virden Recreation and Watersports. Infrastructure and Transportation staff will meet with the owner of the business next week.
Staff from Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation have agreed to meet with a Virden businessman whose plans to expand his water sports business has been stymied by a highway interchange plan.
Norm Murray, owner of Virden Recreation and Watersports, told the Brandon Sun on Monday that his plans to build a $1.5-million building on land he assembled to move his business to the Trans-Canada Highway were stopped by the provincial government because of the long-range plan for overpasses in Virden.
The department’s staff will meet next week with Murray in hopes of working around a roadblock caused by the plan to build as many as three overpasses on the Trans-Canada Highway through Virden, said Rachel Morgan, a cabinet press secretary for Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation.
Murray could not be reached for comment, but his local MLA greeted the news warmly.
"I think it’s about time because this has been delayed long enough," said Arthur-Virden Progressive Conservative MLA Larry Maguire. "The government needs to be more responsive in helping small businesses, not hindering them. They know their own plans don’t call for these overpasses for at least a half-century, so it’s incumbent on them to pay attention to the development that’s going on in southwestern Manitoba at this time and support industries and agriculture and the oil industry and establish these businesses that are moving in from other parts of Canada. All of that is a tax benefit to the province of Manitoba."
While Murray may have been surprised about the overpass plan, Morgan said there were two public meetings in 1997 where the overpass plans were made public.
"The 1997 plans were developed to identify what the long-range requirements would be for the area," Morgan wrote in an email to the Brandon Sun. "The plans were used when the province (twinned the Trans-Canada Highway) through Virden, including the current at-grade signalized intersection. Virden town council has been aware of these plans."
Morgan added that the Trans-Canada is a national highway and it was the federal government that has expressed a desire for a freeway-style roadway without traffic lights.
However, the land Murray wants to develop now was not part of Virden in 1997, but was part of the RM of Wallace.
And even if that was the case, that’s no reason for the government to get in the way of a businessman trying to expand his business, said Mavis Tallieu, the Progressive Conservative Infrastructure critic.
"I think if the government was wanting to support small business and entrepreneurship, they would find a way to make this work," Tallieu said. "They are just being very, very inflexible. All he wants to do is build some buildings on his property."
Tallieu said there are similar situations faced by land owners down the Trans-Canada Highway. She noted the Centreport highway construction, where a proposed bypass of Headingley connects with the Trans-Canada Highway near the Highway 26 junction (near the White Horse statue), has stopped development because MIT has placed a hold on land there, just like it has in Virden.
"People there are on hold and can’t develop property there either because of plans that may or may not happen," Tallieu said. "Right now, if they could say it was going to happen and this is where it will go, that would accommodate people who are quite far from the area. But this is a freeze on the whole area on people that want to use their land."
Morgan said MIT has long-range studies in excess of 20 years of the anticipated need for the infrastructure and will "try to direct development in a manner thar its long-range plans are not compromised."
"Land development occurs on an ongoing basis and once land is developed, it is very expensive and disruptive to relocate people and businesses," Morgan wrote. "If the land for the proposed interchange is not protected from development, then it likely could not be constructed as it would require the buyout/relocation of the businesses along the highway. This would lead to an even more expensive bypass solution."
The department may have long-range plans, but when the overpasses are built will depend on traffic flows, Morgan said. Once the traffic needs exceed what traffic lights can accommodate, the overpass will be built there.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 24, 2012