There are six Wal-Mart stores in Austin, Texas, and 10 within 20 miles of the city. So it is not surprising that many Austin residents have had their fill of Wal-Marts. Sprawl-Busters reported on December 10, 2006 that residents from the Allendale neighborhood, Crestview, Shoal Creek and Brentwood had all signed petitions opposing the proposed 24-hour, 219,000 s.f. Super Wal-Mart at the old Northcross mall. Their City Councilor, Brewster McCracken, told the media: “This is not about Wal-Mart, it’s about a Super Wal-Mart… that’s open 24 hours a day. That would be fine on a highway. It just doesn’t belong here.” Now a group of residents, calling themselves Responsible Growth for Northcross (RG4N), have asked the City Council to revoke the site plan for the proposal. The group’s lawyer, Brad Rockwell, says the city should have held a public hearing. The developer, Lincoln Properties, agreed to hold off development at the site for two months. But according to RG4N, Lincoln Property Company is moving ahead with its plans despite the agreement made with the City to suspend activities at the Wal-Mart site. On its website, RG4N says: “So far, Lincoln Property has shown nothing but contempt for the significant neighborhood opposition to the current site plan. Thus, we are pursuing legal means to achieve our goals in addition to participating in the city process and detailing our vision. At its December 14 meeting, the City Council failed to revoke Lincoln’s illegal site plan. And it is illegal, because the city did not follow the law properly in approving the plan. Unfortunately, the City Council has decided it is better to be sued by citizens than by a developer. City attorneys have publicly claimed that RG4N will lose in court. Don’t be fooled. This position is only to be expected, because no one who thinks they are going to get sued will admit there is any merit to the case against them. The important thing to remember is this: Until we take them to court, Lincoln will pay us no real attention.”
TV News 8 in Austin reports that the city council is looking into a zoning ordinance regarding bix box retailers. The ordinance would require buildings larger than 100,000 square feet to go through a public hearing. Such an ordinance would have no effect on the Northcross Wal-Mart project, and is a very timid step anyway. Many other communities have placed “caps” on the size of retail buildings to keep retail projects in scale, and avoid major traffic problems. The Northcross Wal-Mart is not a done deal, but city officials have clearly left it up to their citizens to fight the battle in court. For earlier stories, search Newsflash by “Austin.” Go to www.rg4n.org for more background.