RG4N Blog

Wal-Mart Takes "No" for an Answer

Posted Mon, 07/16/2007 - 11:33pm

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

Wal-Mart comes to town and wants to build a huge 220,000 sq. ft. supercenter right in the middle of a city neighborhood. The plan includes a huge parking structure. It's estimated the project would generate 7,000 additional car trips a day. Nonetheless, city officials give a rubber stamp administrative approval. The community is upset and a backlash ensues.

Sound familiar so far?

This story isn't from Austin. It's from Gresham, Oregon, the fourth largest city in that state. It started over two years ago, and came to a final—and happy!—conclusion this past month.

Citizens appealed the approval to the Gresham Hearings Officer, who sided with them and denied the project for traffic and safety issues. Wal-Mart tried, but failed, to overturn the appeal.

Finally, Wal-Mart conceded and said they'd take their development to a more appropriate location.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Holder said today that the company would not appeal a recent rejection of the proposal by a city hearing's officer—the most recent of several obstacles the retailer has faced in its 2 1/2-year struggle to build a store at the site.

"While disappointed by the decision, a long protracted legal battle is not in anyone's best interests," Holder said in a news release. "Our obligation and our commitment to our customers is to find a site that works for them as well as for the city.

It's unfortunate Austin city management didn't stand up for the citizens the way Gresham's did. That's why RG4N had to turn to the courts.

But this story shows that when the citizens stand firm, Wal-Mart will eventually get the message.

You can read more about it here: Wal-Mart abandons plan for new store in Gresham

Events This Week

Posted Fri, 07/13/2007 - 1:33pm

It's going to be a busy week, and we hope to see you at some of our upcoming events.

First, this Saturday morning—just like every Saturday morning—we will be out at the corner of Anderson Lane and Burnet Road protesting the Northcross development. Please join us and help keep the pressure on Lincoln Property and Wal-Mart. Show them that the community support and our determination has not wavered. Protest info here.

That same day, we will have informational tables set up at various locations in the area. If you have questions (or would like to throw a couple bucks into our tip jar) please come by. More info here.

Finally, on Wednesday evening (July 18) we have our big community meeting. This will be our first meeting since the lawsuit was filed, so we'll have a lot to talk about. More info here.

Spread the News: It's Not a Done Deal

Posted Fri, 07/06/2007 - 5:04pm

It's hard to believe, but some of your neighbors think it's a done deal.

It's not a done deal, and everyone needs to know the facts. So we're going to create a newsletter for every resident in Allandale, Wooten, Brentwood, North Shoal Creek and Crestview. And we need your help to deliver them, so we can save money on postage and spend it on our lawsuit instead .

Sign up to deliver newsletters to houses on your street, once a month. Please sign up to be a newsletter block captain. Send an email to: join [at] rg4n [dot] org

We're asking for just a little of your time to do the important part: Get the truth reported. Our first newsletter will go out in July.

The more people who volunteer, the more area we can cover without any one person having to do too much. We will also provide a two-week window during which distribution will occur, so no need to worry that you will have to get it all done in one day.

Become a newsletter block captain! Let us know if you are willing and able to be a block captain. Send email to: join [at] rg4n [dot] org

Fourth of July Parade

Posted Wed, 07/04/2007 - 3:18pm

RG4N at the Allandale Fourth of July Parade

The morning was gray, but spirits were bright. Although rain threatened, the Allandale Neighborhood Association annual Fourth of July parade went off as planned.

RG4N marched in the parade. Our theme was, "The New American Revolution." We celebrate people working to support our neighborhoods, and neighborhoods working to build a better Austin.

Kat Correa took some photos of the parade. We posted them over at Flickr: RG4N at 4th of July Parade

We've setup a new Flickr photo group. Flickr is a free online photo sharing web site, and groups allow people to share photos. We invite our supporters to add their photos to the RG4N Flickr group.

Chronicle: Second Lawuit Filed

Posted Tue, 07/03/2007 - 12:21pm

We reported last week that the Allandale Neighborhood Association (ANA) had authorized a lawsuit against the city and the Northcross developer. This lawsuit would be separate from (but similar to) the RG4N action.

The Austin Chronicle is reporting this morning that ANA is ready to move forward and file their suit, and probably has done so by this time. ANA believes the administrative approval with no public hearings was wrong, and it wants to clarify the role City Council can play in reviewing staff decisions.

“It’s a very ripe situation for getting a judge to interpret city ordinances, and to determine whether interpretations by city staff were correct,” said Bruce Bigelow, attorney for the surrounding neighborhood association. ANA alleges that city staff got it wrong. At issue is whether the project qualified for the easier administrative approval process it received—which involves only staff reviews, with no input allowed by council or the public. ANA contends that a garden center within the planned Wal-Mart should have triggered a conditional-use-permit (CUP) process—which requires Planning Commission review and a public hearing, and allows appeal to Council for a final decision.

The article has some positive news on the RG4N lawsuit. The lawsuit includes a request for a temporary restraining order that would prevent the developer from demolishing certain protected trees. That article reports that the developer and RG4N are working towards an agreement on this issue.

For the immediate term, Lincoln has agreed to halt construction; RG4N won’t go to court and seek the restraining order from a judge unless Lincoln Property decides to proceed. “We’re hoping for a longer-term agreement, but you just never know,” said [RG4N attorney Brad] Rockwell.

Read the full article here: Breaking: Second Lawsuit Filed Against Northcross Wal-Mart

8:58pm update: The suit has been filed. Read the press release at the Allandale Reporter web site: Allandale Neighborhood Association Sues the City of Austin

Wal-Mart Community Groups Support Count: Still Zero

Posted Mon, 07/02/2007 - 12:44am

By the time the events of last week happened, the Austin Chronicle had already gone to press. So you may have missed the piece by Katherine Gregor on the events leading up to our lawsuit. It appeared on their web site, not in print.

It's a good article. It discusses the legal basis for the lawsuit and other points you may find interesting.

There is, however, one huge flub by the Wal-Mart spokesperson towards the end:

[Wal-Mart Public Affairs Manager Lisa Elledge] noted that many community members support the project and are in dialogue with Wal-Mart [...], such as the North Shoal Creek Neighborhood Association

Ouch, that's so wrong! The NSCNA does not support the Wal-Mart development plan. The association has not taken an official position. It is neither for nor against the development.

What the neighborhood association has done is produce a list of concerns with respect to the development plan. And its leadership has been in discussions with Wal-Mart and the City with respect to those concerns.

But talking isn't supporting. It's just talking.

NSCNA does not support Wal-Mart, and the Wal-Mart spokespeople should stop claiming it does.

The full text of the article is here: RG4N to Sue City Today

July 6 update: This week's Austin Chronicle prints a letter from Trey Hamilton, a member of the NSCNA Board of Directors, on this issue. Read it here: NSCNA Is Neutral

Our News Feed Just Got Better

Posted Sat, 06/30/2007 - 2:16am

We just made a change to our RSS news feed that we think you will like.

Before, each section of the site had its own feed. You had to subscribe to multiple feeds to get all of our news.

Now, we've consolidated all the content into a single feed:

Syndicate this site http://www.rg4n.org/rss.xml

So if you currently receive our RSS feed, please update your subscription.

If you don't understand anything we just said, then sorry—and welcome to the awesome world of RSS.

RSS is a great way for you to monitor web sites like ours for updates. The more sites you watch, the better it is. Most recent web browsers support RSS. Just click on the above link to see if yours does.

Here is a good reference to learn more: News feeds from the BBC

City's Rubber Stamp has Fallen; Allandale Votes to Sue Too

Posted Fri, 06/29/2007 - 8:12pm

It's been a big week on the Northcross front.

If you are wondering "why now?" the answer is easy: Everybody's been waiting for the City to weigh in. The developer had a site plan submitted to the City for review. It was up to the City to decide whether to let the developer build a huge supercenter and parking garage in the middle of our neighborhood, or whether sanity would prevail.

The answer came Tuesday, when the City swung its rubber stamp and gave the developer just what they asked for.

As you've seen on our front page, RG4N responded by filing a lawsuit. We think the City botched the process, and we want the court to review it and declare that the approval was illegal.

We aren't the only ones. The Allandale Neighborhood Association (ANA) Executive Committee voted Wednesday evening (June 27) to file a separate lawsuit against the City and the developer. (The Northcross property lies in the Allandale neighborhood.)

The Association has issued a statement saying:

ANA has spent considerable time and money these past 6 months researching the impact the development will have on the neighborhood. We requested the city conduct an independent traffic impact analysis that includes the impact it will have on neighborhood streets, submitted an in-depth list of concerns related to the development, met with city council members, contracted with an outside traffic engineering firm to conduct a peer review of the initial traffic impact analysis (TIA), met with city staff, and sent a letter to city council members. We asked the city council to revoke the site plan in hopes that Allandale's concerns would be given due consideration when a new site plan was resubmitted. We were unssuccessful. [...] Consequently, ANA's only recourse is to file suit against the City in effort to get the site plan revoked.

You can read the whole thing at the Allandale Reporter web site: Allandale Executive Committee Votes to File Lawsuit

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