The Austin Chronicle

https://www.austinchronicle.com/daily/news/2007-05-10/473802/

Adding Wal-Mart to the Agenda

By Wells Dunbar, May 10, 2007, 10:14am, Newsdesk

Someone's got something they want to see on next week's City Council agenda:

"Responsible Growth for Northcross (RG4N) requests that City Council place Lincoln Property Company's second Northcross site plan application on the City Council agenda to review the site plan, information from traffic impact analyses and public testimony. RG4N further requests that the City Council vote to deny approval of the application, pursuant to Land Development Code 25-6-141 (A) and (B), due to the excessive burden this project will place upon local streets and arterials and its potential consequences to public safety."

Moreover, the excitable fellows at RG4N breathlessly quote In Fact Daily's reporting that tomorrow, Wal-Mart will release revised square-footage numbers for the Northcross store – will it be something substantial or another PR ploy? If you're so inclined, you can talk about it at RG4N's meeting tonight: May 10, 7pm, at Grace Church of the Nazarene at 1006 W. Koenig.

Full press release below the fold.

Honorable Mayor Wynn and Council Members,

Responsible Growth for Northcross (RG4N) requests that City Council place Lincoln Property Company's second Northcross site plan application on the City Council agenda to review the site plan, information from traffic impact analyses and public testimony. RG4N further requests that the City Council vote to deny approval of the application, pursuant to Land Development Code 25-6-141 (A) and (B), due to the excessive burden this project will place upon local streets and arterials and its potential consequences to public
safety.

It is our understanding that on May 2, groups of Council members met at City Hall with Wal-Mart and Lincoln representatives to discuss this site plan application. Assuming compliance with the Open Meetings Act, it is reasonable to conclude that the parties seeking City approval currently have more information about the City Council's collective concerns and intentions in this matter than do registered interested parties, the affected neighborhoods, the public or even individual Council members
themselves.

While we appreciate the Council's efforts to dialogue with Wal-Mart in order to mitigate the civic damage that would result from this project, we believe that discussion of the City's concerns and intentions should at this point occur in a public forum. Wal-Mart's plans are highly controversial and will have an enormous impact on residents, businesses and property owners in the area. Given the ongoing failure of Wal-Mart and Lincoln to take stakeholder concerns seriously, these individuals and entities deserve to understand the concerns, suggestions and issues discussed in these negotiations between the City Council and Wal-Mart/Lincoln.

Considering the second Northcross Wal-Mart site plan during a Council meeting and public hearing is not only important for the sake of transparency in government deliberations, but also for ensuring that the City of Austin hears from its citizens and follows its own laws. The City Has acknowledged legal problems in the first site plan approval process that
were overlooked by City staff but identified by citizens after the approval became public. The Council has repeatedly said it can do nothing to correct the City's own mistakes. Particularly given the additional traffic information that has become available during review of the second site plan,
the Council now has not only an opportunity but a legal duty to prevent making the same mistakes twice:

–The Council or director may deny an application if the results of a traffic impact analysis demonstrate that a proposed development may overburden the City1s street system. [Land Development Code § 25-6-141(A)]

–The City Code [§ 25-6-141(B)] requires the City Council and City staff to deny a site plan if the project either endangers public safety or results in excessive vehicles per day on nearby streets.

–Assistant City Manager Laura Huffman confirmed at the April 5, 2007 City Council meeting that a big box site plan can be rejected on the basis of traffic impact.

There is little question that the actual traffic impact of the proposed Northcross Wal-Mart will be significantly higher than is projected by the original traffic impact analysis (TIA) submitted by Lincoln. A new or supplemental TIA, for which staff should be requiring more accurate and recent traffic data including actual counts from local Wal-Mart stores, will show that traffic will be as much as twice as high as is forecast by the original TIA. The original TIA painted a picture of an overburdened street
system. An updated TIA will show even greater congestion, with failed intersections and threats to public safety from an increased number of accidents, delays for emergency response vehicles, and increased air pollution levels in local airsheds from idling cars and diesel trucks.

RG4N urges you to place the second Northcross site plan application on the City Council agenda and adhere to City of Austin code by rejecting the application, due to legitimate and factual concerns about the project's impact on public safety and its production of excessive additional traffic
on surrounding streets.

(Signed: Hope Morrison, President of RG4N)

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