Naked City

In Other Big-Box News ...

The Lakeway City Council on Monday echoed voters' anti-big-box sentiment with a 6-0 rejection of a new zoning category that would have allowed commercial buildings larger than 100,000 square feet. The unanimous vote corresponds to the Sept. 15 election results on a nonbinding resolution that rejected bigger retail developments for the Lake Travis community. The council vote effectively sealed the fate of a proposed 184,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter that would anchor a new retail development.

Opponents of the new zoning category cheered Monday's vote. "We had clearly threatened to proceed with a recall if the measure had passed," said John Hoopingarner of the Lakeway First opposition group. "We were even considering initiating a recall for any council members who voted for it, even if they had been in the minority." The group's focus now, he added, is to prevent big boxes from encircling Lakeway outside the city limits. "We would still face many of the same issues that a big box in our back yard would create," he said.

Moving to the Southwest, two aquifer-related proposals -- one that would pave the way for a big box and another that would ban big boxes altogether -- made the rounds of Austin's boards and commissions this week. On Tuesday, the Zoning and Platting Commission cast a favorable vote (with Commissioner John-Michael Cortez voting no) for a legal settlement between the city and Lowe's, the home-improvement giant that wants to build a store on Brodie Lane, just north of William Cannon. The site is in Austin's extraterritorial jurisdiction, but the city would annex the property if Lowe's proceeds under the terms of the proposed settlement.

The City Council on Nov. 6 gave the deal only tentative approval, on a 4-3 vote, before sending it off for consideration by the boards and commissions. The proposal is due to return to the council on Dec. 4; both the Environmental Board and the Planning Commission were considering it on Wednesday as the Chronicle went to press.

Those two panels were also scheduled to consider an ordinance that would effectively make permanent the current 45-day moratorium on big-box retail projects over the aquifer and within the city limits -- an overlay that would limit general retail locations in the area to 50,000 square feet and stand-alone grocery stores to 100,000 square feet. Council will also take up that issue on Dec. 4. The idea of a size cap is, needless to say, wildly unpopular with many in the development community; representatives of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, the Real Estate Council of Austin, and other such stakeholders gave city leaders, including council members Daryl Slusher and Raul Alvarez, an earful at a meeting earlier this week.

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Big Box, Lakeway, Lowe's, moratorium, Zoning and Platting Commission, Planning Commission, Environmental Board, Wal-Mart

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