Ten citizens’ input re Walmart mall on Oct. 8

Here’s what ten ordinary citizens had to say about the Walmart mall issue at Richmond council’s planning committee meeting of Tuesday, Oct. 8.

Essentially, five were opposed to the Walmart mall, three wanted improvements, and two wanted to be able to sell their nearby lots for a good price. One of those two evidently saw the mall as increasing the chances of a big payday.

The five speakers opposed to the Walmart mall

Colin Dring indicated that the Advisory Committee on the Environment (ACE), which he chairs, was not consulted—and wants to be consulted—about changes to ESAs (environmentally sensitive areas) in the block where the mall would be located (details here). His range of points included this poverty-response one:

From a socio-economic perspective, knowing that we have approximately 25% of our population as low-income working poor, a Walmart location flies in the face of everything that is known about social impact. The presence of these shopping centres perpetuates low wages, access to unhealthy and unsustainable foods, while significantly impacting the local economy. Employees within these developments are typically not unionized and have little protection outside of existing regulations.

Carol Day explained the harm that a Walmart would do to Richmond by harming small business (details here).

De Whalen spoke from a poverty perspective and also questioned the absence of an environmental impact study.

Michael Wolfe talked about the benefits of mature trees like the ones the mall is destroying, the problems of unregulated preloading like what was dumped on Walmart-mall lots, and mistake of accepting cash payoffs for ecological damage like the damage the developer should fix.

Lorraine Bell wanted restored greenspace along Alderbridge Way instead of a mall.

The three speakers who wanted improvements

Jim Wright pointed out that the Walmart mall would be 60% larger than permitted unless it would enable “high quality urban form,” which could be possible with restored ESA, including restored ecology and restored urban forest that would restore the threated viewscapes from the Garden City Lands (details here).

Jerome Dickey wanted greater respect for ESAs and the official community plan.

John ter Borg wanted greater respect for nature within and near the Walmart lands, and wanted the Walmart mall proposal to be refined accordingly.

The two wanting to sell nearby lots for a good price

Shawn Sangha wanted the Alexandra-to-Leslie Road connection constructed immediately.

Shelly Dubbert just argued in favour of the mall (details here). However, past submissions from Ms. Dubbert and her husband, Bob Dubbert, show deep concerns about their neighbourhood and also their wish for quick action that may increase the value of their property at 4420 Garden City Road, just north of the mall property. (It’s a half-acre lot   assessed at $731,000 plus $5,400 for the house, and the asking price that’s showing up online is $2,650,000, which seems like a stretch at this time.)

In this submission on July 8, 2013, Robert Dubbert was clear about what was driving him: “I would like to downsize and either move into the new housing that is coming into the area, or out of this area all together.” I sympathize with the Dubberts, but it’s important to recognize that their advocacy for the mall is significantly in the interests of selling their property for enough money to retire comfortably. That sensible but rare motivation shouldn’t be heavily weighted.

On the other hand, their comments about how Alexandra has become a ghetto ring very true, perhaps best expressed in this Shelley Dubbert presentation to council on July 8, 2013. Michael Wolfe has expressed similar concerns. The thing is that doing the Walmart mall badly instead of well is another way to beat down the quality of life in the downtown area of Richmond Centre and Alexandra. I am extremely concerned about that and have expressed it elsewhere. Personally I’m not against the Walmart mall as long as it will be fixed, and each further delay in fixing it makes it less likely to be possible. As a last resort, I may end up wanting the mall terminated, but there should be a better way to stop the spread of the disease than to kill the patient.

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