The Walmart Mall and the ESA farce

Walmart mall sandpile

From the Garden City Lands, the grey sandpile that moonscaped a segment of the Alderbridge wildlife corridor looks like it is on the lands, but it is actually on the other side of Alderbridge Way—immediately north of the lands. (Over there, the deep sand and the killing of trees had a moonscape effect from nearby.)

The background for this article is related to the Alderbridge wildlife corridor, the natural area that existed in most of the large block from Alderbridge Way north to Alexandra Road and from Garden City Road east to No. 4 Road. There were very large residential lots where nature was left alone, and the corridor included what may have been Richmond’s last remaining  mixed urban forest, especially on the Alderbridge side. The developer moonscaped one segment of the corridor about seven years ago, with the City of Richmond “turning a blind eye” to it.

That happened even when trees that were explicitly protected by the tree bylaw were directly killed (by developer-induced flooding) and even though every one of the residential lots included ESA along Alderbridge. ESA is the usual name for “environmentally sensitive area” and is supposed to enable ecological protection. The wildlife corridor was also protected by the large West Cambie Natural Park, which the city eliminated, and a central north-south greenway, which the Walmart mall crept into, despite Coun. Harold Steves showing some resistance.

Bizarrely, the proposal before council goes to great lengths to justify the planned moonscaping of the whole Walmart Mall area, along with the reduction of the planned greenway. The bizarre rationale is that there has been a lot of disturbance that has reduced the quality of the ecosystem. However, the Walmart developer caused by far the worst disturbance in an ecosystem that was literally humming with life. The long sand pile on the site never made sense from the standpoint of the usual purpose (preloading for large buildings), since it had a different footprint, but now we understand the purpose. By greatly harming the ecosystem, the supposed preloading enabled an excuse to kill the whole ecosystem.

All the studies that are provided in the massive Walmart mall proposal occurred after the developer-caused damage—not before it! From a citizens’ standpoint, the fitting conclusion would be for the developer to be required to do everything possible to restore damage, especially with a concentrated focus on the remnant of wildlife corridor along the north side of Alderbridge where the ESA that was in effect when the Walmart Mall application began should still be in effect.

The Walmart developers, who are experts in their processes, are using the same method that some developers use in the Agricultural Land Reserve: they actively or passively degrade land and then say it should be taken out of the ALR because it is not good enough for agriculture. With that ongoing ALR experience in BC, our local government is in a position to understand what is going on. The question is whether they will go along with the bizarre pretence or stand up for the citizens.

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