Naked City

Wal-Mart on the Aquifer?

Wal-Mart wants to conquer the Edwards Aquifer with one of its famously huge Supercenters on nearly 30 acres of land in the sensitive recharge zone. The property, at the northeast corner of MoPac and Slaughter Lane, comes with the benefit of zoning already in place, and it's exempt from the Save Our Springs Ordinance because of a 1996 city-negotiated settlement with the previous owner. Wal-Mart is shooting for an 110,000-square-foot store, its 11th in the metro area.

Wal-Mart officials and their representative, noted developers' lawyer Richard Suttle, have been making the rounds at City Hall and have contacted neighborhood associations to try to head off opposition to the project. That opposition would most likely come from the Save Our Springs Alliance and some of the more active Southwest Austin neighborhood groups that rallied against Stratus Properties' project in the same area. The Wal-Mart property is part of a 43-acre spread owned by Endeavor Real Estate Group, which plans a retail project on the remaining land.

Bill Bunch, executive director of the alliance, says his group is researching the 1996 settlement agreement. "My recollection is that [the settlement] was not posted as an amendment to the SOS Ordinance, so I believe we have some grounds" to contest the matter, he says. Bunch said the environmental group has written a letter to Wal-Mart and would like to meet personally with store officials to try to dissuade the Arkansas corporation from locating atop the aquifer.

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