Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Northcross nonsense

First, I'll thank Hope Morrison for being a good sport and responding to my previous Northcross entry. Second, I don't live in the part of town most likely to be affected by a Northcross Wal-Mart...I just think Wal-Mart has, for some reason, been singled out by Responsible Growth for Northcross for persecution. Third, I still have issues with some of Ms. Morrison's comments.

For example, Ms. Morrison commented in this blog that "'Four times the traffic' is based on actual traffic counts at Wal-Marts in Austin taken by city staff once everyone acknowledged that the traffic impact analysis submitted by Lincoln was quite likely underestimating traffic." Several questions spring to mind, such as the following:
  • Were these traffic counts taken at Wal-Mart locations that replaced non-retail uses, such as the Slaughter/I-35 or Ben White/I-35 locations? If so, I'd tend to believe that traffic patterns would be disrupted by the use. That said, it seems as if RG4N is trying to ascribe all the blame for increased traffic to the Wal-Mart. The Slaughter location is surrounded by the Southpark Meadows center, so the blame ought to be shared. The Ben White location is pretty much responsible for a couple of restaurants' having located there, so it could have been responsible for the change in traffic patterns, except that TxDOT completely botched the Ben White/I-35 interchange, causing other traffic issues on the westbound access road in that area. But that's for another post.
  • If the answer to the first question is "no", were these traffic counts taken at Wal-Mart locations that replaced heavy traffic retail uses, such as, say, a mall? I doubt it.
  • And really, how much additional traffic would there be at Anderson/Burnet if Northcross were a fully functional mall? I can't imagine Wal-Mart generating four times the traffic of, for example, Barton Creek Square.
So I remain unconvinced regarding the "four times" argument.

Next quote from Ms. Morrison: "The statement about the city approval process having flaws alludes to our allegations that the city didn't follow the law in reviewing and approving the site plan." That doesn't mean the site plan submitted by Lincoln is illegal, as has been stated onRG4N's site; that just means the City of Austin did not give this site plan the attention it may have deserved, should Ms. Morrison's assertion of the site plan requiring a conditional use process be accurate. Given the amount of politicking in the City's development review processes, this, to me, is a non-issue.

Those were Ms. Morrison's main points. In the meantime, RG4N has made a few other statements. For example, "Responsible Growth for Northcross calls upon the City of Austin to explain why it is paying $224,000 in taxpayers' dollars to an outside law firm to fight its citizens." I happen to agree with this. In essence, what the city council appears to be saying by doing this is that they don't have the spines to take a stand on this themselves, and they want something to which they can point...probably when Wal-Mart builds.

RG4N's most recent statement (posted 23 Feb) sheds light on what the real issue is, in stating a fundamental flaw about Lincoln Property/Wal-Mart's new proposed plan: "it still includes a Supercenter..." The issue for RG4N has apparently been not whether there will be more traffic, or whether people will be there at odd hours of the night; the issue seems to be Wal-Mart itself.
Would RG4N be so up in arms if the proposed big box were a Super Target? How about an HEB Plus? I wonder.