RG4N Testimony Continues Today

Northcross neighbors continue to plead their case

Afternoon action in the Responsible Growth for Northcross trial Tuesday afternoon consisted mostly of testimony on floodwater drainage engineering, which this reporter (and likely anyone in the courtroom who was not a water engineer) admittedly found a bit arcane and difficult to follow, but it could be boiled down (pardon the pun) to this: Dr. Lauren Ross, a drainage engineer for the city of Sunset Valley and frequent player in Barton Springs and other Austin water issues, said that Lincoln Property Co.’s site plan to build a Wal-Mart on the former Northcross Mall property did not meet city floodwater code; Jim Schissler, project manager for the redevelopment, said he had done what city code prescribed; and city of Austin engineer Benny Ho said that different engineers using different data sets can come to different conclusions.

Judge Orlinda Naranjo will have to decide which of those views carries the most weight, because the parties in the suit are asking her to reach very different conclusions. RG4N attorney Doug Young says that if the site plan (and/or the city’s method for approving that site plan) violates city code, Lincoln must submit a new plan – this time under the city’s new Big Box Ordinance, which was passed this year, too late to affect the Northcross plan, and which requires City Council approval of any big-box retail store. Outside counsel Casey Dobson, representing the city, says that is completely wrong. RG4N is claiming, he said, that its expertise is superior to that of city staff and that Naranjo must view the evidence through a narrow filter: The city’s professionals must be allowed to interpret their own regulations and that “the court should not substitute its own judgment for the city’s” unless the city’s conduct was “so out of bounds that it acted arbitrarily and capriciously.”

“Site-plan reviews,” Dobson said, “are not a game of ‘gotcha’ to deny applications, and the process allows for discretion.”

Both sides scored points Tuesday: Young got Ho to admit that 25-year and 100-year flood events could create flooding on Northcross Drive that could pose a threat to human life, and Ho said he didn’t think Lincoln was doing enough to keep storm-water channels on the site clear of debris; Bruce Scrafford, representing Lincoln, got Ross to admit that the current site plan has less impervious cover than the old Northcross, more water-quality controls (the site currently has none, she said), will probably send less pollution into Shoal Creek than it currently does, and will have more storm-water retention.

Testimony continues today in Travis County’s 419th District Court at 10am. Time permitting, I will try to post updates.

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Development, Responsible Growth for Northcross, Wal-Mart, Lincoln Property

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