After ten years mired in controversy and concerns, the $100-million Walmart-anchored outdoor shopping centre proposal has finally edged out of the planning committee stage.
With a vote of 4-1 in favour of moving the plans forward - Coun. Harold Steves the sole opposition - the West Cambie project will now go before full city council to decide if the matter then proceeds to a public hearing later in the fall.
More on this story to follow.
The developer behind the proposed Walmart-anchored shopping centre is having another crack at convincing councillors to approve its $100 million plan — this time with a $238,000 cheque in hand.
Smartcentres, whose ten-year-old bid ran into more trouble at last month’s planning committee meeting, has now offered to put up the latest round of cash for more park enhancements within the West Cambie site and for “ecological” improvements within nearby West Cambie Park.
The move is, in part, motivated by the potential loss of around half an acre of ESA (environmentally sensitive area) designated land within the proposed 14-acre shopping centre between Alderbridge Way and Alexandra Road, near Garden City Road.
Last month, city council’s planning committee sent the application back to staff once more with concerns over the loss of the ESA and the impact of traffic coming into Richmond from out of town to shop at the new development.
However, in the revised report due to go before the committee Tuesday afternoon, the city’s transportation director, Victor Wei, indicated that, of the 1,800 extra peak hour weekend car trips expected, only 15 per cent of that is anticipated to come from Vancouver.
According to Wei’s report, no extra traffic is expected from the east — Queensborough has its own Walmart — and Delta to the south will soon have the new mega shopping centre on Tsawwassen First Nations land.
Some councillors were also worried about the possibility of the city not being able to acquire two properties on the site — needed to build a new realigned connector road at Alexandra and Leslie roads.
It’s an acquisition which, thus far, has eluded the developer and is now being handed to the city to complete, along with around $3.4 million of developer’s cash.
The threat of expropriating the two properties stuck firmly in several councillors’ throats when it was aired last month.
And city staff don’t seem to have too much to offer in terms of alternatives, should the two homeowners fail to budge.
Complicating the acquisition further are new details revealed in this week’s report, which highlight how one of the owners earlier this year asked the developer for $2.4 million — three times the assessed property tax value — for his family’s Garden City Road property.
If such a deal was to take place between the city and the owner, it would leave only $1 million in the pot to purchase the remaining property.
The owner told the News how a $2 million price tag had been tentatively agreed with the developer in 2011 and he upped his demand by 40 per cent this year after the developer dropped their offer by the same percentage.
Staff, meanwhile, are sticking to the assertion that the realigned connector road is not needed for ten years due to the developer’s extensive intersection improvements in the immediate area.
The city's West Cambie Area Plan (WCAP), which was set up seven years ago by the council of the day to guide development in the area, was reason enough last month for councillors Evelina Halsey-Brandt and Linda Barnes to vote in favour of the project proceeded to a public hearing.
The plans involve a 36,000-squaremetre development split into an east and west portion, partly on the West Cambie Natural Park.
As well as a 15,000-square-metre, three storey Walmart anchoring the eastern section, the likes of London Drugs, Bed Bath & Beyond, Marshalls and The Keg are penciled in for what would be called "Central at Garden City."
*Check back here at www.richmond-news.com for an update on this story and watch out for Friday’s edition of the News for a special feature on the ten-year saga which has led to the current impasse.
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