RG4N's 11th-Hour Gamble

RG4n wants a third party to reconcile their Northcross plans with the developer's.

Responsible Growth for Northcross is calling for a third party to facilitate their beef with Wal-Mart developers Lincoln Property to head off the threat of a lawsuit. Taking a cue from the belabored but ultimately successful negotiations for the redevelopment of the Concordia campus, which languished between neighbors and developer until ROMA Design Group worked out mutually agreeable details for the project.

The press release:

City Management and Outside Counsel Fail to Move Northcross Negotiations Forward

AUSTIN, Texas, March 26, 2007
Responsible Growth for Northcross (RG4N), the group opposing the Northcross Mall redevelopment plan, today called for a third-party facilitator to assist with negotiations between Lincoln Property Company, which owns Northcross Mall, and neighborhood groups.

In a letter provided today to Austin Assistant City Manager Laura Huffman, RG4N stated that the minor revisions made to the development plan by Lincoln and Wal-Mart do not address priority concerns in any meaningful way. Responses from Northcross-area neighborhood associations stated similar disappointments. However, RG4N also highlighted the failure of City management to play an objective role in facilitating negotiations between the developer and neighborhood representatives.

"Lincoln and Wal-Mart made no real effort to address the concerns of the neighborhoods. That in itself is pretty galling, but what is even more distressing is how City management has so blatantly worked to advance the developer's interests rather than advocating for the neighborhoods or working as a neutral facilitator to reach a mutually agreed solution," said Paige Hill, president of RG4N.

Austin Assistant City Manager Laura Huffman requested feedback by today from RG4N and neighborhood groups to the proposed changes to the Lincoln/Wal-Mart plan. RG4N's letter to Ms. Huffman requests that a neutral third party facilitator be selected to settle disputes, similar to the Concordia project, for which the ROMA Design Group is, with strong City support, facilitating discussion between the developer and the Hancock neighborhood.

Rather than seek a similar path to resolving the Northcross issue, the City chose to pay $224,000 in taxpayer dollars to hire an attorney from Scott, Douglass & McConnico, LLP to fight the neighborhood groups and help Wal-Mart
build a Supercenter at Northcross. RG4N continues to call upon City Council to cancel all contracts with Scott, Douglass & McConnico, LLP regarding Northcross, and instead use City resources to develop a real solution and avoid legal action.

For example, RG4N sent a letter to City leaders on Feb. 12, 2007 requesting staff and financial support for a community charrette to further develop the neighborhoods' vision for the Northcross Mall project.

To date, there has been no response to this request.

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 currently fighting to stop the planned redevelopment of Northcross Mall by Dallas-based Lincoln Property Company, which includes a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Responsible Growth for Northcross is working to develop a mutually beneficial, growth-oriented solution for Northcross Mall. The proposed RG4N solution preserves the character, diversity and quality of life of the six neighborhoods surrounding Northcross. It addresses the need and concerns expressed by Austin citizens, businesses and organizations, and strives to ensure a successful, highly profitable endeavor for Lincoln Property Company and all concerned.

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