Walmart mess has the makings of a win-win

The Richmond Review published this article today.

Re: “Walmart mall to become ‘urban village centre’” (Dec. 19).

Reminder: The location is east of Garden City Road and north of the Garden City Lands and Alderbridge Way.

In the article, Michael Wolfe gave the damning detail: every tree on the Walmart mall site will be killed in the current plan. Nothing will be spared.

The good news is that Richmond council hasn’t voted yet. They’ll discuss the plan further and vote when a big but less future-shaking glitch is gone.

To fix the Walmart mall plan now, before the moonscape stage, we need a council majority of five members with commitment to conservation. Or with values like heeding citizens before developers. Or gratefulness for our viewscape legacies.

Yes, new saplings might be planted later, but the plan itself implies they’re window dressing. They wouldn’t save even bits of the ecosystem, let alone the viewscapes from the Garden City Lands area.

When looking north from where visitors have always contemplated the natural viewscape of wetlands, woods and mountains, who will ooh and aah at the lovely Walmart, the new gem of the setting?

(Okay, maybe a few from city hall.)

Sadly, the plan just needed to respect the city’s own map of “ESAs”, environmentally sensitive areas. There was an ESA on the Alderbridge Way edge of the site, and that remnant of mixed urban forest, teeming with diverse wildlife, could have been saved. It still should be.

The ecosystem to conserve is rare for Richmond, and by nature it’s a wildlife corridor. It’s from Garden City Road to No. 4 Road and would be at least 20 metres wide. With some needed upkeep, it would also save the natural viewscapes, a truly unique legacy.

In a largely-ESA space just east of the Walmart mall site, there was a two-acre natural area, but the mall plan has devoured it. Thankfully, Coun. Harold Steves is objecting, and he’s also brought in the wildlife corridor at council meetings.

Tellingly, by the way, the Walmart mall company sprang into action when Polygon, the giant developer, wanted changes to add value to its future condos nearby. The mall company is now planning a living green screen to give condo buyers better views, and it’s added a parkade-rooftop green space that will further enhance their wellness and Polygon sales.

When council asks, the Walmart mall company should act as responsibly for the people of Richmond. After all, the company actually sought lower density. (City hall pushed for higher density. Mind-boggling.) If the company conserves the natural area and wildlife corridor, an effect will be lower density. They’ll need to rework their plans, but they’ll be seen as responsible.

The mess has the makings of a win-win. The council members who would enable that need our support, and we need their votes.


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