Developing Stories

Traffic, bullshit, Suttle, and Town Lake

Responsible Growth for Northcross – still waiting on a revised traffic-impact analysis from Wal-Mart for the planned Northcross Mall redevelopment – notes that another deal in progress nearby would further increase street traffic. Just across Anderson Lane, the owners of the old post office site (now used to park luxury cars) have said they are in lease negotiations with Office Depot. A new 20,000-square-foot store there would bring even more traffic to the already strained intersection, pointed out RG4N's Jason Meeker.

The city of Austin has budgeted $240,000 to retain outside counsel Casey Dobson in the Northcross matter, and RG4N has questioned that decision. But Dobson objected recently, "People who are saying, 'We're going to sue the crap out of the city of Austin,' are surprised they then have to go out and hire a lawyer?!" The Scott, Douglass & McConnico partner also told the Chronicle that according to his interpretation of city code, for an administrative site plan such as at Northcross, it is the right and duty not of City Council, but of Director Victoria Hsu of the Watershed Protection and Development Review Department to deny a site plan, when a TIA (or neighborhood-traffic analysis) demonstrates that a project would overburden streets or endanger public safety. And he called RG4N's allegations that his (and city staff's) interpretations of city code tend to favor the developer "bullshit!"


In other Northcross Wal-Mart-related news, Austin neighborhoods now have one less reason to castigate real estate attorney Richard Suttle Jr. Last week Suttle ceased to serve as Wal-Mart's local counsel and lobbyist for development deals. Asked about speculation that Wal-Mart had fired him because of all the negative PR over the embattled Northcross Wal-Mart, Suttle responded by e-mail: "No firing for anything. Just a good time for me to transition. 7 years and 11 Supercenters is a long time. Now that Northcross is done (again) and Wal-Mart doesn't have any new store in process, it is a perfect time for me to re-evaluate my practice."
Also concerning Suttle, after spotting him having a long breakfast at Las Manitas with Dellionaire philanthropist Tom Meredith, we called him to ask hopefully if he, too, was taking early retirement to be reborn as a philanthropist. No, Suttle said, it's Armbrust & Brown deals as usual. Suttle, who represents CWS Capital Partners, said his client is likely to file yet another new site plan for its embattled project at 222/333 East Riverside; he said this plan will take the condo towers completely out of the primary 150-foot setback that protects Town Lake shoreline land in the city's Waterfront Overlay District. Neighborhood association South River City Citizens has been fighting the CWS project.

The CWS project also sparked the creation of citizens' group SaveTownLake.org, which last week petitioned state District Judge Lora Livingston for a temporary injunction against all city of Austin variances to waterfront overlay protections – variances the CWS project would still need to encroach on a 50-foot secondary setback. The no-variance request is related to a lawsuit filed by SaveTownLake.org in February. That lawsuit alleges that a sneaky 1999 rewrite of the Waterfront Overlay Ordinance was illegal. If reinstated as originally written into code, the ordinance would include height limits and a citizens' right to appeal, said nonprofit officer Thomas Cook. Suttle gave a verbal shrug to the lawsuit.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Developing Stories, Responsible Growth for Northcross, traffic-impact analysis, Wal-Mart, old post office site, Office Depot, Casey Dobson, Richard Suttle Jr., Tom Meredith, CWS Capital Partners, Waterfront Overlay District, SaveTownLake.org

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