“If you have to vent, you can whine at the public hearing”

This was published in the Richmond Review on Oct. 10, 2013.

Background: A mega-developer wants to rezone 20 large single-residence lots for a Walmart mall. Almost all had ESA (environmentally sensitive area), including mixed urban forest along Alderbridge Way, across from the Garden City Lands.

The Walmart mall plan is not consistent with Richmond’s official community plan (OCP).  The problem has festered for years, but that doesn’t make it okay.

At Tuesday’s planning committee meeting, I explained why the proposal should not be shunted to public hearing before being fixed. Most of the other citizens who spoke made similar cases from a range of perspectives such as conservation, poverty and local business.

Despite all that, the proposal will go to a council rubber-stamping step next Tuesday and then to public hearing on Monday, Nov. 18 at 7 pm at Richmond City Hall.

I had expected more of our council members. They could, for instance, have been ready to turn down the Walmart developer if it wouldn’t treat its City Centre neighbours to the south as well as it treated Polygon, its developer neighbour to the north.

With the radical redesign Polygon demanded two years ago, the mall’s north side will now improve from ugly to pleasing. That’s great for Polygon’s profits and good for nearby residents.

Polygon’s request was actually fair, since the Walmart store is vastly larger than the OCP allows in the Alexandra Neighbourhood. An exception can be made for “high quality urban form,” enhancement of the surrounding area, which may in fact occur on the Polygon side.

Unfortunately, the effect of the Walmart mall on the Garden City Lands area from the Walmart mall south is abysmal “urban form,” but residents there and all of us who value our central park don’t have anyone to enforce the OCP.

As mere citizens we’re told, in effect: “Tough luck. If you have to vent, you can whine at the public hearing.”

That’s one problem. It’s compounded by other ways the OCP and public are not being heeded.

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