Mission City Council rejects latest Gateway plan; 6-2 vote against backing planning commission site plan approval

After the vote, developer Tom Valenti (R) and his son Matt stayed to talk with council members.
After the vote, developer Tom Valenti (R) and his son Matt stayed to talk with council members.

The latest redevelopment plan for the Mission Gateway property was soundly rejected by the Mission City Council Wednesday night.

The city planning commission had voted unanimously in July to send the plan to the city council. The council, though, voted 6-2 against approving the planning commission recommendation and then voted 7-1 in favor of a motion to affirmatively reject the plan.

The vote represented a shift from the 4-4 tie that was broken by Mayor Steve Schowengerdt in January to approve an earlier plan. Two new council members elected in April were specifically opposed to that plan during the campaign. Developer Tom Valenti in May filed a revised plan that put two stories of apartments on top of a 155,000 square foot Walmart at the east end of the development in an attempt to satisfy some of the concerns that the plan did not meet the mixed use zoning requirements.

Only council members Pat Quinn and Suzie Gibbs voted for the plan. Debbie Kring, Arcie Rothrock, Ron Appletoft, Nick Schlossmacher, Kristin Inman, and Tom Geraghty all voted against approval. On the motion to affirmatively reject the plan, all but Gibbs voted for it.

“I am pretty shocked,” Valenti said after the meeting. “We are not going to go away quietly into the night, I assure you.”

“We were asked to demolish that mall,” Valenti said of the old Mission Mall that he and his partners purchased in 2005 and tore down in 2006. A number of plans have been proposed and then not materialized in the 10 years the developers have tried to launch a project on the site.

Valenti said the rejection left him in an “untenable” position. After investing more than $40 million in the project, he said, he was left with nothing. “With all due respect, the retail landscape has changed dramatically (since the mall purchase),” he said.

Valenti said the vote was surprising after the planning commission, the city planning staff and the city’s land use attorney said the project met the city’s MXD (mixed use) zoning requirements.

Council member Appletoft disagreed with that assessment. Appletoft said he believes the project violates the zoning ordinance and certainly violates the spirit of the of the MXD intentions. Appletoft was on the council in 2003 and 2004 when the zoning language and the restrictions on large discount stores were created. “I was there …” Appletoft said. The project also does not have community support, he added.

Schlossmacher, one of the newly elected council members who stated his opposition to the previous plan during the campaign, said he also felt the proposal did not meet the zoning requirements. “I want something there as much as anyone,” Schlossmacher said.

Valenti said he would need to talk with his business partner and would like to individually with council members to see if they can reach common ground.

Mission City Council members listened to Tom Valenti make his proposal for passage of the latest site plan.
Mission City Council members listened to Tom Valenti make his proposal for passage of the latest site plan.