BRANDON SUN ILLUSTRATION
A proposed VBJ Developments shopping centre, seen here in magenta, sits on RM of Cornwallis land that is currently zoned agricultural.
The reeve of the Rural Municipality of Cornwallis says VBJ Developments is "jumping the gun" on its proposed plan for a major retail and residential area on the outskirts of Brandon.
Earth-moving equipment works near 18th Street South at Patricia Avenue, where this sign for a as-yet-unapproved VBJ Developments project is stirring controversy. VBJ vice-president Steve McMillan says the sign is simply a “heads up.” (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
A sign posted at the corner of 18th Street and Patricia Avenue in the city’s south end touts a "new shopping development" and includes a phone number for people to call if they are interested in leasing the land.
Reeve Reg Atkinson said the issue is the proposed development hasn’t been approved, and due to the fact that the land is zoned agricultural and in the RM of Cornwallis, there are still many hurdles to cross before anything can move forward.
"I don’t like that sign. What I don’t like is it assumes it’s a done deal," Atkinson said. "It’s a vision in my opinion at this stage. Maybe it’ll happen, maybe it won’t, I don’t know."
Atkinson said the sign has also caused people living in the area to ask questions.
"They’re saying, ‘Hey isn’t that a farm?’ And that’s a legitimate concern, because they see the real estate sign that says phone up and book your spot," he said.
Atkinson was also concerned about some minor work being done on the land. A temporary road was built and soil was being moved, but there was no culvert installed. The concern was the potential for overland flooding.
"If you’ve got a rain storm, you want to make sure the water can still get where it’s not going to damage other people’s property," he said.
Steve McMillan, vice-president of planning services with VBJ Developments, said the company has since installed the culvert.
As for the minor work being done on the property, McMillan said it’s just stripping black dirt to use for some of the company’s other developments, nothing related to proposed plan for the area.
"The land is still in the RM of Cornwallis, it’s zoned agricultural, there’s a few … low spots on the land, so we were just stripping all the black dirt off and just doing some levelling," he said.
The company has been working for the past few years on the project, which would be located on 170 acres southwest of the intersection at 18th Street and Patricia Avenue. The vision includes a range of single-family to high-density residential, as well as a retail centre and green space.
McMillan stressed that the plan is only conceptual, something the company would like to see happen. However, it must wait to see what the City of Brandon and the neighbouring rural municipalities’ fringe growth strategy entails.
McMillan said the company realizes any real movement on the project is likely still years away, as the formal process hasn’t even begun.
"We haven’t worked out a concept plan with the city and that won’t happen until we go through the annexation process and development plan amendment, rezoning, subdivision, that whole thing," he said.
As for the real estate sign on the property, McMillan said VBJ just wants to give commercial businesses a "heads up" that this may be a reality a few years down the road.
"Really, it’s just a sign just to let people know this is what we’re hoping for," he said. "We’re not trying to say it’s been set aside for commercial and we’re not trying to jump the gun."
If a business is looking to relocate or add another location, McMillan said the sign was to let them know this southern location may be an option.
"We’re just trying to create some excitement, I guess, in the city that you know another big commercial centre could possibly happen in the future," he said. "It wasn’t trying to be negative or anything like that."
VBJ Developments has been working with Colliers International, a real estate company in Winnipeg.
"They’re the experts in this thing, and they think the south end of Brandon is … where commercial retailers are going to want to locate… just because it’s close to the existing retail centres now with the Shoppers Mall and Canadian Tire."
Atkinson said the RM of Cornwallis won’t stand in the way of a development, if it’s what the City of Brandon wants.
"The city needs to make the first call in the sense that maybe the city is better to go north than go south right now," Atkinson said.
The fringe growth strategy, which incorporates the City of Brandon, as well as the RMs of Cornwallis and Elton, is a bit behind schedule. The original plan was to present the strategy to the Brandon and Area Planning District board this month.
However Louisa Garbo, the city’s director of planning and building safety, said that will likely happen in late November.
Garbo said the reason for the delay is that the planning department brought in a consultant to do the life cycle analysis.
"It’s a critical part," she said. "The consultant has finished his draft and we have some questions, and right now we’re just fine-tuning the report."
The goal of the fringe growth strategy is to identify where, how and what type of growth should occur over the next 50 years.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 7, 2013