The developers behind a proposed Walmart-anchored, 14-acre, open-air shopping centre have sweetened the deal for city council.
Despite previous assertions from city staff that Smartcentres' offer to pay just 59 per cent of the cost constructing a vital connector road, the developer has now agreed to pay the full cost - estimated at $11 million in 10 years' time.
The funding of the road - to the west of the site sandwiched between Alexandra Road and Alderbridge Way at Garden City Road - was the major stumbling block for many on city council when the proposal for Richmond's latest major shopping hub was last presented to them in December 2012.
The revised rezoning application, 10 years in the making, was due to go before the city's planning committee Tuesday afternoon, but it remains to be seen if the new concession will be enough to sway council.
"I still think the connector road needs to be built before the development opens up," said planning chair Coun. Bill McNulty of city staff forecasts that the road - a realignment of an Alexandra and Leslie connector road - doesn't need to be built for 10 years.
"At the end of the day, we don't need Walmart. We welcome them on our terms, but we should be treating them like every other development."
Five properties also need to be purchased for the connector road - deemed "critical" by staff to the project - to be even possible.
Smartcentres has only secured three of them and now wants to give
the city up to $3.45 million to buy the other two, at 4560 and 4580 Garden City Road, when the time comes to construct the connector road.
"I have concerns over this amount for those properties; are these 2013 evaluations? If so, what if we don't build the road until 2020? said McNulty.
"And if the developer has been unable to buy up these two properties, why will the city be able to? "I think the taxpayer has to be adequately protected here."
As well as paying the city the full cost for it to construct the connector road, Smartcentres would make a number of major and minor intersection
improvements in the area if the plan goes ahead.
A new north-south "High Street" would also run down the middle of the development, linking Alexandra and Alderbridge.
During their presentation to council last December, SmartCentres cited the "significant amount of economic impact" and "improved amenities" for the West Cambie area from the development, such as: 975 employees; $2.5 million per year in property taxes; $7.2 million in onetime development cost charges. Coun. Harold Steves and provincial election Green Party candidate and local resident Michael Wolfe have both cited concerns over the project's environmental impact, referring to the loss of trees and wildlife in the area.
The plans involve a 36,000-square metre development split into an east and west portion, partly on the West Cambie Natural Park in a designated environmentally sensitive area (ESA).
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