Newest Mission Gateway plan hits opposition from public, council; vote delayed for workshop

Developer Tom Valenti addressed the  city council Wednesday night. Photo by Bill Nichols
Developer Tom Valenti addressed the city council Wednesday night. Photo by Bill Nichols

The latest proposal for the Mission Gateway development ran into opposition from both Mission residents and members of the city council Wednesday night in the first test of how the plan would be received.

The council eventually tabled a vote on a preliminary site plan until it can hold a workshop with developer Tom Valenti to talk through the project and stipulations that the city might require. The idea for a work session was introduced by Mayor Steve Schowengerdt and approved on a split vote.

The new proposal is anchored by a 155,000 square foot Walmart in a single story. It has three levels of parking, some smaller retail, a boutique hotel and residential apartments above the retail.

Councilor Dave Shepard, who noted that he had supported the last three proposals from Valenti and his partners at Cameron Group dating back to 2006, said he will not support the planning commission recommendation to approve a preliminary site plan. “The retail centerpiece of this preliminary plan is a dominant, one-story, 155,000 square foot discount superstore,” Shepard said. He contended that the plan does not comply with city ordinances and does not meet the spirit of the planned mixed use district.

Shepard pointed specifically to parts of the code that said mixed use intends for buildings that are primarily multi-story structures “with differing uses organized vertically rather than the horizontal separation of uses (that is typical).” A prohibition in code on discount or superstore footprints was another reason Shepard opposed the plan.

City staff indicated the Gateway site plan meets the minimum requirement because the development is viewed as a whole and the vertical portions of the residential and hotel offset the one-story Walmart. Attorney Pete Heaven, who handles development issues for the city, said the council still can decide if meeting minimum requirements is good enough.

Councilor Debbie Kring also opposed the plan. “I have been with Tom Valenti from square one,” she said, calling him a “wonderful person.” But, Kring said, “the trust and credibility is not there anymore. I can’t support it.”

Councilor Arcie Rothrock joined Shepard in voting against the motion to delay the vote. After the meeting she said that she supports Shepard’s view of the project and does not support it. Councilor Amy Miller, who expressed her doubts about the project during a committee meeting this month, was absent Wednesday.

Before the council weighed in, several residents spoke against the project. Chad Palmer encouraged the council to make it as difficult as possible for Valenti to get public assistance. “Nobody wants a Walmart,” he said. “I don’t want my tax dollars supporting a Walmart (in that area).” Valenti has indicated he will ask for $29 million in public support.

Aaron Deacon asked to see developments like Mission Farms (which the residential component was compared to) next to a Walmart. He said the Gateway land was an opportunity that should not be wasted. “We can do better,” said Liz Craig, who also opposed the Walmart.

The work session, which should take place before the November council meeting, will be open to the public, but public comment might not be allowed.