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Friday, November 17, 2006

The Evil Empire Rears Its Ugly Head...

And the crazy thing is that I'm not even talking about Republicans!

I just found out last week that Northcross Mall, an old, dying mall down the street from me is getting a new tenant. Wal-Mart. For those of you who do not know, I live in a fairly dense, urban area in the north part of Austin with a good deal of traffic and many thriving local businesses. Obviously, this news made my stomach hurt. This is not what our community needs for many reasons – poor labor practices, traffic problems, destroying local merchants, environmental hazards, not to mention there is a Wal-Mart about ten minutes away. Just imagine the joy local residents will feel at hearing refrigeration trucks unloading goods at 3am!

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of anger and organization. No neighborhood associations in the area were informed (Wal-Mart claimed they had done so). The Austin City Council, bless their corrupt little hearts, kept it hush-hush until it was announced suddenly as a “done deal” in an Austin American Statesman piece that read like a Wal-Mart press release. Sure, there had been rumors. But to go from rumor to reality without anyone being made away of a site plan – that’s a problem. And the residents of Wooten (including me), Allandale, North Shoal Creek, Brentwood and Crestview agree.

Here’s a tidbit of information about the Austin City Council’s involvement. There has been a proposed “big box ordinance” kicking around for the past year or so. This would give citizens a voice in influencing developments which affect them. It was apparently “good to go” with a hearing phase on June 12, having gained the required written approval of all city department heads. Yet despite pleas to move it, the proposed ordinance sat in limbo for over two months, finally being posted back to Planning Commission's Codes & Ordinances Subcommittee on August 15, six days after Northcross site plan was approved. Another two months went by before the proposed ordinance could be heard by the full Planning Commission on October 24; then, before the proposed ordinance had even been posted for its City Council hearing,
Lincoln Properties announced that it had inked the deal with Wal-Mart. Coincidence?

I wrote the each City Councilperson with my opinion on the way this went down. Here is my response from Lee Leftingwell. Think I’ll be encouraging anyone to vote for him in the near future?

From: Leffingwell, Lee [mailto:Lee.Leffingwell@ci.austin.tx.us]
Sent: Friday, November 10, 2006 1:49 PM
Subject: RE: Council Member Lee Leffingwell - Walmart Development at Northcross

The tentative plan for a WalMart in Norcross mall was published in the Austin American Statesman about 6 months ago. Lengthy article. As far as I know, there is nothing more than that - a tentative plan. So your suggestion that City Council members withheld information is misinformed. To my knowledge, no application has been filed with the city, nor has a proposed site plan.
Thanks for your comments.

I don’t think he really meant the part where he thanked me, do you? I was quite tempered in my response, considering the guy is a complete liar. The approved site plan for the Wal-Mart at Northcross (SP-06-0041C) was originally filed on 2/10/06 and the applicant requested an extension on 7/20/06; the site plan was approved and released on 8/9/06. I guess the fact that I didn’t happen to read the Statesman that day means I’m a stupid, out of it loser!

If you are a resident of the areas in the vicinity or just a concerned citizen of Austin who thinks this is bullshit, I would encourage you to help us out. We are organizing several subcommittees to battle this development. Updates to follow!

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