The Mission City Council heard another presentation on the most recent plans for the development of the Gateway property Monday night, but the future of the project may depend largely on a vote anticipated by the council Wednesday night.
Developer Tom Valenti did reveal that Aloft is the small hotel planned for the site and that a letter of approval for the hotel has been obtained from parent Starwood. He said Starwood is fully aware of the Walmart “and that is not an issue.”
One of the critical issues will be if the council accepts a planning commission recommendation on the preliminary site plan for the project. The city’s land use attorney, Pete Heaven, told the council during the Monday work session that the planning commission approval implied that it also granted an exception to the city’s restrictions on discount superstores. The exception is allowed only in a mixed use development, Heaven told the council.
The planning commission was within its rights to grant the exception, Heaven said, “but you don’t have to accept it.” The city has a restriction on the size of discount superstores and the 155,000 square foot Walmart planned for the development far exceeds the limit. It is only because the store is in a mixed use development with other multi-story buildings that the exception can be granted.
Heaven said that for the 2012 plan, approved by the council in January of 2013, the city attorney had taken the position that the Walmart was not a superstore under the city definition because it had a second story of retail above it. In the current plan, the Walmart is a one-story building that normally would not be allowed.
The council delayed a vote on the preliminary site plan in October pending the workshop. Much of the evening was taken up with a more detailed presentation of the plans from Valenti and Josh Shelton of el dorado architects. Only a handful of questions were posed by the council, many centering on specific aspects of the design or the modern look of the buildings.
“This is what retailers are looking for,” Valenti said of the more urban design. He said Walmart has not been involved in another plan “exactly like this,” but has been part of other larger developments.
“I am not going to apologize for this plan,” Valenti said, “I think it works very well.”