It was standing room only by the time everyone finished filing in at tonight’s Responsible Growth for Northcross meeting. The message was simple: Wal-Mart is not a done deal.
The meeting lasted a little over an hour and in that time organizers provided a background on the project, gave a status on where things stand, took questions, and laid out the plan for mobilizing oppostion. It concluded with people directed to one of 8 committee tables to volunteer. A petition was signed and donations taken.
Jason Mittman, one of the steering committee members, pointed out
WalMart at over 200,000 square feet would be the
third largest Big Box in Central Texas. Only Cabelas and Ikea are
larger. Paige Hill explained that the newly formed Responsible Growth
group comprised of resident from Allandale, Brentwood, Crestview, North
Shoal Creek, Wooten and North Shoal Creek was organized to oppose the
current plans for the redevelopment. The neighborhoods weren’t notified
of the development and what’s planned is inconsistent with the City’s
new urban development objectives.
Elliot Naishtat, an Allandale resident provided encouragement and
support to the group. He said to be successful it’s going to take
organization and people power and reminded the audience of the
neighborhood’s success in the past in preventing construction of the
crosstown thoroughfare once being considered for Koenig/Allandale. “If we can stop cross-town expressways, we can
stop a big box.” However, he told the group this is a City matter, the State has no influence over this development.
Liz Halton, a resident of the North Shoal Creek neighborhood said
there are instances where other communities have been successful in
keeping Wal-Mart out. However we need to keep in mind that
Properties and Wal-Mart have hired the top two lawyers on land use in
Austin. Success is going to take letters to city
councilmembers, donations, and expertise. She encouraged
everyone in attendance to get involved.
Allandale resident and former City Council member Brigid Shea said the planned Wal-Mart has serious problems with its site plans and traffic estimates. The neighborhoods
were not notified during the process. “We have a strong leg to stand on to challenge this application.” She
then fielded questions from the audience. What law firm represents
Wal-Mart? (Armbrust & Brown). Does Lincoln Properties own
Northcross? (yes). Are they adding gas tanks and oil change
facilities on the property? – No. How did it get this far along through the City Council? (Some said they didn’t know. Others said they knew but thought the
neighborhoods were for it). Brigid
recommends people encourage the City to hold up on giving Lincoln
Properties the building and demolition permits until resident’s
concerns have been addressed.
Councilmember Brewster McCraken arrived late to the meeting but said
today was the first time he’d seen the site plans and was very upset to
learn how big the Wal-Mart is. He said "this is where our city code
fails us." Lincoln Properties went through the normal site plan
approval process giving the impression it was for a similar use and the
Council was not made aware it included a Wal-Mart until a week prior to
newspaper article that came out about it. The City Council instructed
staff to provide them with more information about the plans and
specifically to review the traffic impact analysis that was submitted.
Those in attendance were asked to email City Council members and to
frequent the web site set up to be the resource for those interested: www.responsiblegrowthfornorthcross.org.