Developer Not Making Good on Wal-Mart Moratorium?

Responsible Growth for Northcross says Lincoln no Honest Abe

Last night, Responsible Growth for Northcross sent out a press release, "Lincoln Property Company Breaks Pledge to Suspend Activities at Proposed Wal-Mart Site." No bulldozers are moving earth at the mall, but RG4N feels that Lincoln has reneged on its pledge to work over the moratorium toward a more mutually agreeable outcome. In the release, RG4N vice president Hope Morrison says "the process is still under way despite commitments from Lincoln and the City Council that the project would be put on hold to allow for neighborhood concerns to be addressed." Indeed, in an update to the city's Northcross Web page, an excerpt from Wal-Mart attorney Richard Suttle's letter to Council Member Mike Martinez says the store “would not file applications within the next 60-day period (ending Feb. 12, 2007) in order to allow the time for continued discussions with interested parties… It is Wal-Mart’s intent to continue discussions with the various neighborhood associations to get input, identify areas of concern, and attempt to address and make improvements to the plan in response to information shared at the meetings.”

However, as the neighborhood groups have made clear, they feel rebuffed in their efforts to enter into a dialogue with Wal-Mart or Lincoln. Just prior to Christmas, both the Crestview and North Shoal Creek neighborhood associations hoped to hold productive meetings with both parties – yet, according to RG4N communications director Jason Meeker, while Wal-Mart relented and sent its regional PR rep from Bentonville to the second meeting, Lincoln neglected to send anyone at all. "Our dispute is not only with the fact that administrative activity is continuing, but also that Lincoln has taken no steps to have a dialogue with the public," Meeker writes in an email. "We can't wait until Day 40, 50, or 59 to raise this objection. Lincoln made an agreement to stop development activity and to gather input from the neighborhoods for 60 days. So far, they are doing the opposite."

The press release, in full, below:

LINCOLN PROPERTY COMPANY BREAKS PLEDGE TO SUSPEND ACTIVITIES AT PROPOSED WAL-MART SITE

AUSTIN, Texas, Jan. 4, 2007 — Lincoln Property Company is actively moving forward with its plans to build a 220,000 sq. ft. Wal-Mart Supercenter at Northcross Mall, despite making an agreement with the City of Austin on December 14, 2006 to suspend activities at the Wal-Mart
site for 60 days.

Although the agreement was publicly announced by the City of Austin to have Lincoln stop development in order to gather input from neighborhood residents, Responsible Growth for Northcross has learned that the City and Lincoln Property Company have continued the building permit process.

A City Council statement on Dec. 14, 2006 states: "In an email to Council Member Leffingwell today, Lincoln – Northcross Ltd. has committed to a 60 day self-imposed suspension on the filing of the structural demolition permit with the City that would be necessary to move the project
forward. The suspension will allow for greater input from neighborhood residents."

“On Dec. 19, 2006, Lincoln filed an update on its original building permit. On approximately Dec. 28, the City of Austin responded with comments to the permit application. The process is still underway despite commitments from Lincoln and the City Council that the project would be put on hold to allow for neighborhood concerns to be addressed,” says Hope Morrison, vice president of Responsible Growth for Northcross.

Responsible Growth for Northcross calls upon Lincoln Property Company to honor its commitment to the citizens of Austin to stop development for 60 days. Furthermore, Responsible Growth for Northcross asks Lincoln Property Company to publicly explain why it broke its word. Responsible Growth for Northcross also calls upon the City of Austin to reset the clock and require a true 60 days suspension of development activity.

Breaking the 60 day suspension pledge shows that Lincoln's so-called commitment to the City Council is nothing more than a charade intended to cool the political heat and divert public attention. In addition, continuing the development process before Austin city staff could even begin the negotiations between Lincoln and the representatives of the thousands of stakeholders in the
neighborhoods is a slap in the face to the City Council, city staff, the citizens of Austin, and all the neighborhoods surrounding Northcross Mall. This shows Lincoln Property Company is not operating in good faith with the city or the public.

On Jan. 3, 2007, Austin city staff convened a meeting with Responsible Growth for Northcross and other representatives from neighborhoods surrounding Northcross Mall to begin the process of facilitating negotiations between neighborhood stakeholders and Lincoln Property Company. Responsible Growth for Northcross publicly thanks the City of Austin for its attempt to foster negotiation, but asks for Lincoln Property Company to be held to its commitments immediately.

About Responsible Growth for Northcross: Responsible Growth for Northcross is a group of citizens from the Allandale, Brentwood, Crestview, North Shoal Creek, Rosedale and Wooten neighborhoods that are fighting to stop development of the 220,000 sq. ft. 24-Hour Wal-Mart Supercenter at Northcross Mall. Responsible Growth for Northcross is working to develop a mutually beneficial, growth-oriented solution for Northcross Mall that serves the character and needs of the surrounding neighborhoods while also ensuring a successful endeavor for Lincoln Property Company and all concerned.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Business & Economy, Growth & Development, Wal-Mart, City Council, Northcross, Responsible Growth

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