Manitoba court imposes garnishment order on City of Winnipeg in Parker Lands battle

A Manitoba court has issued a garnishment notice on City of Winnipeg bank accounts after the city was found in contempt of court last year.

According to a garnishment order obtained by Global News, the city was ordered to pay $31,412 to development company Gem Equities as part of court costs for an ongoing legal battle over the Parker Lands.

That money was supposed to be paid out in May, but no payments were made.

Read more: Parker lands plan again rejected at city hall after City of Winnipeg found in contempt of court

According to Gem Equities’ lawyer Dave Hill, the city actually owes about three times that amount — about $100,000 — related to other judgments around this battle.

Gem Equities has already asked the court to impose a fine of $100 a day for every day of missed payment and being in contempt of court, said Hill.

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“If they don’t purge the contempt (of court judgement) after Sept. 9, we’re asking for it to be increased to $200 dollars a day,” Hill said.

That fine would be paid to the province of Manitoba, not Gem Equities.

Global News has reached out to the City of Winnipeg for comment.

Land swap

Gem Equities has owned the Parker Lands, a 47-acre tract near a section of the recently completed southwest rapid transit line, since a land swap with the city in 2009.

In the 11 years since, the city has approved none of the company’s development plans, despite multiple applications and a successful lawsuit against the city that saw a Court of Queen’s Bench justice find the city in contempt and order city council to consider Gem Equities’ development.

The development, called Fulton Grove, would see multi-family housing, including 12-storey rental complexes on land between the second phase of the southwest transit corridor and the CN tracks to the north of the Parker Lands near the Winnipeg Humane Society on Hurst Way.

City planners alleged, among other things, that the proposal didn’t meet the zoning regulations set out for developments built near rapid-transit stations.

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The company eventually sued the city, and last August a judge found the city in contempt “for failing to process the applicants’ secondary plan … at a public meeting, pursuant to a non-statutory (policy) approach.”

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Now, the city must pay legal costs for that battle, which is still ongoing.

Parker Lands dispute timeline

This is a timeline of key dates in the dispute, according to a recent city staff report:

  • July 2009: City council approves a land exchange with Gem Equities for the Parker Lands, with Gem Equities on the hook for a plan and public consultations.
  • 2013: Gem Equities begins working on a plan with supporting engineering studies for the Parker Lands, in consultation with the city’s public service.
  • 2013-2017: Gem Equities makes a number of draft versions of the plan with feedback from the city’s public service. Refinements include clarification as to which portion of the remaining forest was to be protected.
  • 2016: Gem Equities hosts two public open house events.
  • December 2017: Gem Equities changes the plan to allow for higher residential densities and they plan to raze a portion of the forest. This was not mentioned in the open houses or applications to the city.
  • January 2018: Gem Equities submits an application to have the Parker Lands plan adopted by city council. They tell the city public service they will conduct online public engagement.
  • February 2018: Gem Equities submits an application to rezone 47 acres of land in the Parker Lands. The last piece of documentation required is received in August 2018, the city staff wrote in their report.
  • June 2018: The developer goes to the Court of Queen’s Bench to compel the city to hear the applicant’s development applications.
  • September 2018: The city’s property and development committee decides to simply put forward the matter to the mayor’s executive policy committee and city council. EPC passes it on to council. Meanwhile, the courts issue a decision compelling the city to hear the applications. The next day, council lays the matter over indefinitely.
  • October 2018: Gem Equities clears the remainder of the forest on their property. Meanwhile, the courts order the city centre community committee to hold a public hearing on the proposed development plan and rezoning.
  • November 2018: The committee holds a public meeting and hearing. They recommend the plans be adopted so long as it fits in the city’s charter. It also allows Gem Equities to resubmit their plans without having to reapply.
  • December 2018: Gem Equities goes back to court, alleging the city is in contempt of the court’s previous order, saying the city failed to adhere to the order. They said the city should have used a non-statutory approach to the plan, instead of a by-law approach.
  • August 2019: The court finds the city in contempt for failing to process the applicants’ plan as a non-statutory (policy) plan, but did not find the city in contempt on other grounds raised by the developer. The court tells the city’s property and development committee to hold a meeting considering the secondary plan and rezoning application. The city appeals.
  • March 2020: The court does not reconsider the finding of contempt but also does not impose a penalty on the city. The court orders that the secondary plan and rezoning application be referred directly to the standing policy committee on property and development for consideration, and that the secondary be considered as policy, but not as a by-law.
  • May 2020: The city’s property and development committee holds the meeting asked for in August and once again rejects the plan, saying there are numerous flaws. The city says it has not yet exhausted all of its avenues of appeal in court.
  • August 2020: Court orders the city to pay legal costs of $31,000 are not followed, so Gem Equities gets a garnishment order.

— with files from Erik Pindera, Richard Cloutier and Shane Gibson

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