The Austin Chronicle

Naked City

Up the creek with Wal-Mart

By Amy Smith, December 5, 2003, News

South Austin residents say it'll be the beginning of the end of Blunn Creek if Wal-Mart wins City Council approval today (Thursday) on a zoning case that would clear the way for a new Supercenter on Ben White, just south of the creek's headwaters.

The South River City Citizens neighborhood group collected thousands of dollars to help pay for an engineering study of the creek -- which painted a picture of a fairly clean-flowing waterway that would suffer irreversibly if Wal-Mart were allowed to develop under its current blueprint. SRCC President Tim Mahoney says Wal-Mart wants to proceed with only minimum code compliance instead of stricter environmental controls. Wal-Mart engineers and neighborhood residents have spent the last couple of weeks trying to resolve their differences, but SRCC leaders say there's been little progress.

Opponents of the Wal-Mart plan fear the City Council will sign off on the zoning case because the proposed site fronts a commercial corridor along Ben White near I-35, and because the store promises additional sales-tax dollars. Meanwhile, a City Council-commissioned study is under way to determine if big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart actually generate new dollars or rather siphon revenue from existing stores.

Before today's vote, residents gathered Wednesday at the entrance of Blunn Creek Preserve as a show of support for the South Austin waterway.

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