RG4N Blog

City Illegally Approves Second Site Plan

Posted Tue, 06/26/2007 - 10:02pm

Today, the City of Austin has granted approval to Lincoln Property on their revised site plan for Northcross redevelopment.

RG4N has issued a statement denouncing the approval. It says:

"We are dismayed that the City once again has approved a site plan for Northcross in violation of several of its own laws," said Hope Morrison, RG4N president. "We have tried for months to resolve this situation without litigation,but the City, the developer and Wal-Mart have made it clear that they won't listen unless someone sues them."

Developer Lincoln Property Company has begun work on renovating the eastern third of the mall, but work on the planned Supercenter is not slated to begin immediately.

Morison further noted, "Some people think it's already a done deal--but it is not. Once this case is in court and the pro-developer bias of City management is no longer the controlling factor, then all bets are off for Wal-Mart and the developer."

Full press statements from both RG4N and Wal-Mart are attached below.

Allandale: Update on Northcross

Posted Tue, 06/26/2007 - 2:33am

The Northcross property, as you may know, is in the Allandale neighborhood. The Allandale Neighborhood Association has just posted an update to their web site on their efforts to overturn the current Northcross redevelopment plan.

They summarize their position:

We believe the City of Austin has an obligation to uphold both the letter and the intent of the law and to act in a manner to protect the safety and general welfare of its citizenry. By law, the Northcross site plan should have triggered a public hearing. Our right to public process has been denied. Furthermore, we believe that Lincoln Properties has grossly underestimated the impact of traffic on our streets.

The neighborhood association is raising funds to support their efforts.

Read the entire article here: It’s not a Done Deal!

What's the Latest?

Posted Wed, 06/20/2007 - 9:36pm

Mark your calendar: Lincoln Property Company currently has until June 26 to provide all necessary information to show how its second site plan meets all city requirements.

This means we could see the City approve the site plan by that date.

There is also a possibility the City will deny the plan.

The last round of staff comments to the developer indicate several continued areas of concern, including traffic impact.

RG4N is closely monitoring the review process. We have our lawyers on speed-dial, and we will release an announcement as soon as the City makes an official decision on the Northcross site plan.

Casino Night a Success

Posted Wed, 06/20/2007 - 9:33pm

The recent RG4N Casino Night was a great success. We had a good crowd, fantastic auction items and a very entertaining karaoke contest.The money we raised will help us in the legal phase of our fight for a better vision for Northcross Mall.

Thanks to everybody who participated.

Special thanks go to the Common Interest Karaoke & Sports Bar for hosting, to Andrew Bost who conducted the live auction, to Roger Wines for his help with the auction and casino tables, and to the many local businesses who donated silent auction items. Our business supporters are the best!

Allandale: Traffic Analysis not in Good Faith

Posted Tue, 06/19/2007 - 4:10pm

The Allandale Reporter web site has an update from the Northcross Committee of the Allandale Neighborhood Association.

The committee has sent a letter to the Mayor and City Council outlining their continued concerns with the plan to build a Wal-Mart supercenter on the Northcross property. They discuss some of the troublesome problems with the TIA (traffic impact analysis) produced by Lincoln Property and Wal-Mart:

[...] We believe that Lincoln Property Company has not acted in good faith when submitting this revised TIA, and should submit a TIA to [City of Austin] staff that accurately predicts the future volume of the store. The first step to achieving this goal is to base the traffic analysis on the findings of the August 2006 ITE Journal article (see attached), which demonstrated that Wal-Mart Supercenters in Texas and Oklahoma produced traffic volumes that greatly exceeded the volumes predicted by the ITE Handbook. By making this adjustment to the methodology, LPC can produce a traffic forecast that is more likely to reflect reality, rather than simply using inaccurate figures to satisfy the COA’s TIA requirement.

Read the full article here: Northcross and the Supercenter.

Wal-Mart Mailer Confirms: It's not a Done Deal

Posted Sun, 06/17/2007 - 11:12am

You may recall that back in April, Wal-Mart mailed out a glossy brochure to everybody in the neighborhood.

Well, they're at it again. This time it's a card. On the card, they simply ask people to contact the Mayor and City Council in support of their big box supercenter.

The card concludes:

With your continued help, we look forward to the successful redevelopment and completion of Northcross Mall. Thank you again for your time and support!

This mailing confirms what we've been saying all along: It's not a done deal!.

Wal-Mart wants the City Council to hear what people think, and we think that's a fine idea. We encourage you to contact the Mayor and City Council today and let them know what you think about the Wal-Mart plan to redevelop Northcross.

(Also, see this article about why we are asking City Council to act and what we are asking them to do.)

Give Them a Chance: Support RG4N and Community Art

Posted Thu, 06/07/2007 - 5:25pm

Some neighborhood residents are involved in the production of a new, original play called "Give Them a Chance".

"Give Them a Chance" is a musical drama about freedom from tyranny, told from the viewpoint of young people. The play advocates the well being of children and promotes the preservation of human rights.

The play will be performed several times over the next two months.

For more information, visit this page.

Thanks to the generosity of the producers, you can attend the play and support RG4N at the same time. If you follow this link and purchase tickets, a portion of your ticket price will be donated to RG4N. You must use that link for RG4N to be credited with the sale.

Chronicle: Northcross as a Failure of Policy

Posted Wed, 06/06/2007 - 11:44pm

Katherine Gregor writes a good summary of the current situation with the Northcross development. She raises a troubling question: exactly who is steering the ship of policy in this city?

Who sets public policy in Austin? Will our elected representatives—the mayor and City Council members—stand up for their convictions about the community's best interests when the going gets tough? [...] Northcross serves as a troubling example of how council policy can get derailed or usurped by city staff—the city manager and her assistant CMs, the city legal department, even traffic engineers. Is too much power concentrated in the office of the city manager, which has nearly absolute domain over city staff?

Gregor points out that what should be a critical policy decision is instead being treated as a technical matter: counting cars and square feet rather than considering impact on health, safety, and quality of life.

The entire exercise of trying to pin this development's denial on "objective" forecast data for a single intersection is, in truth, a dismal embarrassment. The reasons that Lincoln's plan for Northcross is a bad idea—a poor land use for the city and detestable to community members—are far broader and more complex than traffic concerns, legitimate as those may be. A thoughtful determination on such a large-scaled inner-city redevelopment requires the intelligent evaluation of numerous interlocking and complex factors—a higher judgment call. That's the kind of decision that rightly should be made by City Council, after the project has been vetted by the Planning Commission and an open public dialogue—not left to a computer formula run by a traffic engineer.

Gregor notes that the Northcross developer has been particularly adept at "gaming the system", seeking approval for a development that is fundamentally incompatible with city development goals and neighborhood desires. Gregor suggests that the recent small reduction in project footprint may not have been driven by community concerns so much as a desire to make the numbers balance in their favor.

Just prior to releasing new TIA numbers, Lincoln and Wal-Mart Realty announced that the size of the supercenter had been reduced from 219,000 to 186,500 square feet. While Wal-Mart suggested in a letter to the city that the change was motivated by "being a good corporate citizen to local communities," it's fair to question whether the tweak was calculated to bring the traffic counts just out of the failure zone on the TIA.

You can read the full article here.

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