Council meeting re Walmart, Tues, Oct 8, 2013

The Walmart mall developer and Richmond staff tried to use this to show how Walmart doesn't interfere with viewscapes from the Garden City Lands, but they actually showed the opposite (despite showing much larger trees than are possible in the current mall plan).

The Walmart mall developer and Richmond staff tried to use this to show how Walmart doesn’t interfere with viewscapes from the Garden City Lands, but they actually showed the opposite. (They did that despite showing large trees—up to 60 feet in diameter—even though the building has hardly any setback from Alderbridge in the current mall plan).

Update, Oct. 8, 2014: Mayor Malcolm Brodie attended as a committee member but managed to dominate the meeting. Almost all the citizens who spoke were opposed to the application going any further until it was fixed (or, in some cases, wanted it terminated), and they made strong points. However, they were ignored. The committee voted against the citizens, with only Coun. Harold Steves on the citizens’ side.

The Walmart Mall proposal for Alderbridge Way in Richmond, BC comes back to the Planning Committee of Richmond Council on Tuesday, Oct. 8 at 4:00 p.m. This is crucial. We are relying on council members to grasp the issue and turn down the application unless the Walmart developer is prepared to treat its neighbours in the Garden City Lands area at least as well as it treated its developer neighbour, Polygon.

We don’t want council to  try to wash their hands of the issue by shunting it to a public hearing. The reality is that they are being paid to go into the issue in a depth that is not possible for the public. The public don’t even have the same tools, since council members get colour printouts of the huge set of materials. In this PDF, see pages 51 to 304.

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We’re asking that the City of Richmond treat the people of Richmond at least as well as it treats developers. In this situation, the developers include both the Walmart developer (“SmartCentres”) and Polygon, a large Vancouver developer.

Polygon was able to get huge changes to the Walmart Mall in 2011 to add value for itself by improving its views. The effect was that Polygon’s developments on the north side of Alexandra Road (across the road from the Walmart mall) will now have good to great views instead of poor to mediocre ones. That came about after the former director of development, Brian Jackson, stepped in when he received this Polygon letter. (Note: Unfortunately, Mr. Jackson has moved on to lead the City of Vancouver’s development.)

In seeking good treatment like that instead of awful treatment from our own city’s government, we’re asking our city council members to save our city from a disaster. That may seem like a modest request, since we would just be asking them to do what they’re paid to do. However, staff puts a lot of pressure on council, and Walmart and its developer have high-powered experts whose whole jobs exist to get city councils to do what they’re told.

Our more modest expectation is that the Walmart mall developer restore and preserve the viewscapes from the Garden City Lands area that it has damaged and would ruin. Along with that, we expect them to restore and preserve the environmentally sensitive area that they have partially moonscaped and intend to completely moonscape before fabricating a supposed replacement that does not accomplish what is needed.

The last time this came to council, Councillors Harold Steves, Bill McNulty and Chak Au showed backbone, standing up to the developer and senior staff. In contrast, Coun. Evelina Halsey-Brandt persistently played up to the  parties her colleagues were standing up to. After the meeting, with most people gone, that councillor went out to the plaza (courtyard) area of city hall for a long discussion with the developer’s contingent.

This in no way suggests anything improper, and in fact I have personally gone out of my way to see things from the developer’s perspective and to be open to dialogue. The point is simply that people like Councillors Steves, McNulty and Au will have a daunting challenge just to hold firm.

(Note: The only other council committee member at that meeting was Coun. Linda Barnes, who was neither playing up or standing up to the developer. Coun. Linda McPhail was also present but functioning more like an observer.)

Many citizens just want Walmart to go away, since they are already convinced it would be an unwelcome presence in the Garden City. I will end up agreeing with that opinion if Walmart and its developer don’t prove on Tuesday, Oct. 8 that they will respect the people of Richmond at least as much as they respected Polygon.

Along with our world-class viewscapes from the Garden City Lands area and our city’s commitment to the living environment, our identity is at stake. We don’t want the Garden City to become the Walmart City. We also don’t want the Garden City Lands to become the Walmart City Lands, which they will be with the current design. That is because the effect of the large grassy berm on the Garden City Lands side of Alderbridge Way is to make the existing forest and the proposed mall appear to be actually on the lands.

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The location for the Planning Committee meeting (at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 8) is the usual one for committee meetings, the Anderson Room on the second floor. Ideally, come a bit early to get a good seat.

If you have something to add, come prepared. Having speaking notes with you will be helpful. You will have up to five minutes to speak when the chair (probably Coun. Bill McNulty) invites input from the public (“delegations”), but it’s fine and good to make a simple strong point in thirty seconds or a minute.

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