Car removed from Winnipeg lot after nearly a decade, leaving dent in the ground and unanswered questions

A hole in the ground and a no-parking sign are all that remain in a grassy River Heights lot where a car sat unmoved for nearly a decade. 

“I just felt relief,” said Michael Gillespie, who represents a company that owns a house on Winnipeg’s Centennial Avenue, across a back lane from where the 1990 Eagle Talon had sat since at least 2014.

Gillespie had tried repeatedly to get the City of Winnipeg to declare the car derelict, but officials said as recently as last month that they were still trying to determine if the vehicle met that definition under the city’s neighbourhood liveability bylaw.

On Wednesday, nearly two weeks after a CBC News story about the abandoned car, Gillespie drove by the spot and saw that it was gone.

“There’s just this large crater in the grass where the car has sat for the better part of 10 years,” he said.

On Monday, Gillespie saw a “no unauthorized parking” sign had appeared beside the car. Then on Tuesday, someone had stuck a “sold” sign to the inside of the back window.

The next day, the vehicle was gone, leaving an impression in the soil where it had been.

Gillespie still doesn’t know who owns, or owned, the vehicle.

A red car parked on grass has a piece of paper with the word "sold" written on it taped to the inside of the back window.
A ‘sold’ sign was taped to the inside of the car’s back window on Tuesday, says Michael Gillespie. By Wednesday, the car was gone, he says. (Submitted by Michael Gillespie)

A spokesperson says the City of Winnipeg “was able to work with the owner of the vehicle to have it moved to a proper location.”

A search of Google Street View images, going back as far as 2014, showed the vehicle parked in the grassy field. The licence plate sticker shows that it was registered in 2012.

As of late last month, the car’s tires were flat, its mirrors and lights smashed, and the wheels were sunk into the ground.

The grassy lot  — a former railway line — is zoned as a single-family district, a spokesperson for the City of Winnipeg said in an email statement.

That zoning classification doesn’t permit “outside storage,” the city’s spokesperson said.

‘Back to the drawing board’

Although he’s relieved the car is no longer there, Gillespie still doesn’t understand why the city took so long to act on removing it.

“I’m just frankly disgusted with the City of Winnipeg administration,” he said.

“I think this entire episode demonstrates the incompetence of the administration … when it comes to dealing with bylaws that are either improperly crafted or poorly thought out or simply badly administered.”

He pointed out that the city’s parking bylaw forbids parking a vehicle on any part of a front or side yard of a property that isn’t a driveway or parking pad.

“So the same car for 10 years has sat improperly on a lawn under a different law in the city of Winnipeg, which the city has chosen to ignore,” he said.

His experience with trying to get the vehicle removed has demonstrated to Gillespie the city has “no interest in pursuing” violations of its own rules, he said.

A red, two-door car with a black roof is parked on a grassy lot. The tires are deflated and the wheels sunk into the ground.
The car is shown in a July 28 photo. Google Street View searches show the 1990 Eagle Talon had been sitting in the same spot, in a grassy lot across a back lane in River Heights, since at least 2014. (Rudy Gauer/CBC)

Waverley West Coun. Janice Lukes brought forward amendments to the derelict vehicle bylaw earlier this year, which she hoped would make it easier for the city to remove them.

In discussions with city staff, however, Lukes was told that a vehicle cannot be declared derelict unless it meets all criteria set out in the neighbourhood liveability bylaw.

Lukes said this situation shows that more changes are necessary.

“The bylaw needs further refinement, because there are scenarios clearly that we’re seeing with the red car, that needs to be addressed,” she said.

“This just shows me it needs to be we need to go back to the drawing board.”

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