Mission Gateway plan fails to get council approval on split vote, sent back to planning commission

The Gateway
The Gateway land could be vacant a little longer.

The latest proposal for the Mission Gateway development and its 155,000 square foot Walmart stalled Wednesday night when four members of the city council voted against it.

Councilors Dave Shepard, Amy Miller, Arcie Rothrock and Debbie Kring voted against approving the preliminary site plan for the development. Councilors Pat Quinn, Suzie Gibbs and Jennifer Cowdry voted to approve the plan. Councilor Jason Vaughn was absent from the meeting. Mission Mayor Steve Schowengerdt also gave his support to the plan.

“If this plan were not to be approved,” developer Tom Valenti said before the vote, “I am not sure what will happen. I don’t have a plan B right now.”

After the vote to approve the site plan failed, Shepard moved to remand the case back to the planning commission which had approved it in September. That motion passed unanimously. Shepard said in his motion that the planning commission should reconsider the exception given for a discount superstore in the mixed use area and consider if the superstore meets the mixed use requirements.

The city prohibits large discount superstores that are on one story, but the planning commission “may grant exception” to the superstore restrictions in a mixed use development. The planning commission’s site plan approval implied the exception though the restrictions were not specifically discussed by the commission.

Before the vote on the site plan, Shepard said he thought it was clear that the plan did not meet the intent of the MXD (mixed use) district. “It violates the community vision,” Shepard said. A 155,000 square foot store violates the MXD zoning, he contended. “There is a path to making this work,” he said, noting that he had voted for a 2013 plan that had retail above a Walmart. The council, he said, had to decide if the current plan is the best use for the land.

Miller, who voted against the 2013 plan, joined Shepard in opposing the current version. The community, she said, has been “very vocal” about opposing a big box retailer. “I think the council should uphold the desire of the community.”

Rothrock also said she could not support the plan because people in the community do not support it. Kring noted how the plan had changed over the years and had lost a number of uses. “I can’t accept this plan,” she said.

Quinn called the plan “not very exceptional,” but said that he would support it since the planning commission passed it. Schowengerdt also pointed to the planning commission approval. “The say it meets MXD. I support it.”

The strongest endorsement came from Councilor Jennifer Cowdry who called the amenities “almost like a work of art.” She also liked the smaller scale from the last plan. Gibbs said she agreed with Quinn and Cowdry.

It would have required six votes of nine (with the mayor voting) to overturn the planning commission recommendation, but it requires a simple majority to approve it. After several councilors spoke against the project, an attempt was made to delay the vote until Vaughn could be present to vote. By that time, though, the motion for approval already had been made and had to be voted on. Miller also was not present but voted by phone.

A number of residents also spoke about the plan with only one of those in favor of it. “It would look better than what is there now,” said Ted Stone. Another resident countered, “I know no residents want Walmart.”