Mission Planning Commission approves latest Gateway development plan for second time, sends it back to council

The layout for the newest Gateway proposal.
The layout for the newest Gateway proposal.

The Mission Planning Commission approved a Gateway development preliminary site plan for the second time Monday night with one dissenting vote. The Mission City Council had sent the plan back to the planning commission to reconsider if it met the intent of the mixed use (MXD) zoning for the land.

The planning commission had unanimously approved the site plan in September, but the city council delayed a vote in October to have a work session with the developer. In November, the council rejected the site plan on a 4-3 vote and then unanimously remanded it back to the planning commission.

“We have been at this for an awfully long time,” developer Tom Valenti told commissioners Monday. The planning commission had approved a plan with a Walmart in it in 2012, Valenti said, and again two months ago. “There seems to be some problem in this community with Walmart,” Valenti said. The city’s land use attorney, he said, had explained that the commission can grant an exception for a discount superstore under the code.

The exception in particular was a point of confusion. When commissioner Scott Babcock said “we are not granting an exception,” attorney Pete Heaven told him that was correct. But when commissioner Robin Dukelow asked if the acceptance of the project meant granting an exception to the discount superstore restrictions, Heaven said that also was correct. He explained approval of the project implies the exception has been granted.

Dukelow was the only planning commissioner to vote against approval. The plan, she said, separates the site into “two distinct areas.” The uses are not organized vertically in most of the buildings, she said, which is part of the intent of the MXD district.

Mission zoning restricts the footprint of discount superstores, which the planned Walmart exceeds, but says the planning commission “may grant exception” to the requirement “in property specifically zoned ‘MXD’ Planned Mixed Use District, where the overall intent of that zoning category has been clearly met.”

The city council’s remand asked the commission to “Reconsider the exception given from the requirements for a discount superstore in a MXD zone. Specifically, the Planning Commission should consider whether or not the proposed discount superstore meets the overall intent of MXD zoning.”

Heaven told the commissioners that city staff still recommends approval of the project. The plan now heads back to the city council for a second vote.