Walmart versus West Cambie Community Plan

West Cambie Area PlanOne of the ways the Walmart Mall conflicts with Richmond’s Official Community Plan is in conflicts with the plan for its neighbourhood. It would be located in the Alexandra Neighbourhood of West Cambie.

Here are examples from the West Cambie Area Plan.

Page 17, Section 8.1.2:

The overall objective is . . . an appealing and livable “complete and balanced community.”

This was addressed very well by citizen Rick Xavier in “Megastore doesn’t make for a complete community” in the Richmond Review in April 2013. It was prompted by a City of Richmond senior planner who had responded to his earlier letter on the issue by quoting that section of the plan. The Xavier response in the Review shows how the planner’s claim makes no sense.

After providing telling examples and reasoning, he went on to say:

Terra Nova MallAny reasonable person’s interpretation of the plan (or vision) is that the neighbourhood should have diverse retail stores, amenities and services like, say, the mall in Terra Nova. That is what the phrase “balanced community” evokes.

And here’s his reasonable conclusion:

It’s clear that rezoning to accommodate the Walmart mall does not meet the standard of the city’s own West Cambie plan. Instead, it undermines the plan, mocks the vision, and represents a failure of imagination which city council should find lamentable.

P. 18, Section 8.1.4:

Existing mature/substantial vegetation is limited in Alexandra. . . . However, where this does exist, significant effort should be made to incorporate mature vegetation elements into the new site plan. . . .

That section recognizes that the effect of raising the level of the ground under the mall (by 1.6 metres, about 5 feet) needs to be taken into account. However, there could easily be a ribbon of 20 metres or more of mixed urban forest at street level along Alderbridge, retaining and enhancing what’s there now except where the developer’s moonscaping has led to a need for major restoration. The ground can rise from the back of the mixed urban forest which would also be both a wildlife corridor and a restored ESA (environmentally sensitive area).

P. 27. Section 8.2.2, for Character Area 2, the Walmart mall area:

For “Floor Plate: Retail” (such as the Walmart store), the maximum is 9,290 square metres, which is 100,000 square feet. However the Walmart that is planned for that location is well over 160,000 square feet.  In other words, it is hugely larger than the supposed maximum, which is already very large—the equivalent of 500 feet long by 200 feet wide.

The section does say that proposals with a larger floor “may be considered . . . where a high quality urban form is achieved.” However, in the Walmart situation, terrible quality would be achieved, since the oversized building would be  a factor in destroying priceless legacy values of the Garden City, Richmond.

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Conclusion: Simply by reducing the Walmart mall size to what was intended in the official community plan, the City of Richmond can restore the ESA along Alderbridge that is supposed to still apply to the Walmart mall (according to what I learned from planning manager Terry Crowe). When that step is combined with other common-sense steps, the ecosystem of the Alderbridge wildlife corridor can be partially restored and the viewscapes from the Garden City Lands can be conserved and enhanced in a win-win way. In other words, a Titanic disaster for the city can be averted just by staying with the plan and steering with common sense. At the same time, Walmart and its “SmartCentres” developer partner would be getting far more than they deserve.

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