South River City Citizens neighborhood association home

Save Blunn Creek! It's not just about Wal-Mart . . . updated 12/10
getting close to final Wal-Mart settlement (see SRCC home page) re city council meeting Thursday, 4 December, and Blunn Creek - Wal-Mart agenda item 50 third reading POSTPONED to 11 December (see extensive background material as large Adobe Acrobat file) ~ ~ ~ a status report from SRCC's president ~ ~ ~ We have an agreement to postpone the third reading on the Wal-Mart zoning change until next week, December 11. I would appreciate if the area coordinators would pull down their signs. I also have a letter received from the Wal-Mart attorney this afternoon that I brought to the rally at 4:30 pm today [Wednesday, 12/4] at the entrance to the Blunn Creek Preserve. We have reached a general agreement structure that, according to our experts at Glenrose Engineering, will save the baseflow to the Creek. We still have the remaining issues, like the issue of the pervious pavement. We should know the status of these shortly. With the letter from Richard Suttle, the rally today was basically a celebration. We need to work out the particulars in the next week. There are six voting members on the ad-hoc negotiating team, the four SRCC officers, Rene Barrera, and Jeff Kessel, as approved at the last membership meeting this past Monday. John Donisi is also playing an important role in the design components. The deal will, in all likelihood, be approved by the city council next week. We will get the proposed agreement on the listserv and website as soon and/or as practical as possible, but time may well be of the essence. As one of the SRCC negotiators was saying from the Home Depot experience (Betty Weed), both sides were changing the wording of that agreement almost as the city council was voting on it.

Again thanks to all of us, and I do mean all of us, that made the difference, whether it was from reading e-mails, sending letters to the editors, negotiating, attending meetings, and/or just sending out those good vibes.

I will also be down at the City Council meeting at 4 pm, just to meet any of our friends and allies that may not have gotten the word that we have been postponed.

Tim Mahoney

SRCC officers:
Tim Mahoney, SRCC president, 326-9944
Sherri Ancipink, SRCC vice-president, 707-2627
Kenny Hilbig, SRCC secretary, 751-4306

Austin City Council zoning on Ben White Wal-Mart at Blunn Creek headwaters : : : here's what you can do before December 4 City County meeting (third reading) while work goes forward on goal of written agreement to protect Blunn Creek and settle other issues C14-03-0119 - Wal-Mart - Approve second/third readings of an ordinance amending Chapter 25-2 of the Austin City Code by rezoning property locally known as 0 East Ben White Boulevard (Blunn Creek Watershed) from family residence (SF-3) district zoning to limited industrial services (LI) district zoning. First reading on November 6, 2003. Vote: 7-0. Conditions met as follows: No conditions were imposed.Applicant: Joe Jung. Agent: Armbrust & Brown, L.L.P. (Richard Suttle, Jr.) City Staff: Annick Beaudet, 974-2975. supporting documents (large Adobe Reader file with maps, views from air, City reports, SRCC correspondence) : : : call, write to the Statesman and the Chronicle, send word to any group interested in preserving a jewel of nature in the heart of the city, use the all-in-one council e-mail address (here are some ideas and themes to incorporate if you'd like, but be original!) ~~~ review SRCC negotiating conditions (set by SRCC executive committee, which met with Wal-Mart representative 11/12, with plans to meet again 11/13) ~ ~ ~ "After a saving maneuver by Councilmember Slusher (who offered a friendly amendment to Councilmember Betty Dunkerly's motion to approve the Wal-Mart SuperCenter for all three readings), the council voted to approve on first reading only the Wal-Mart SuperCenter at Blunn Creek headwaters, but instructed city staff to work with the developer and the neighborhood to develop better criteria for both water quality and quantity. The city council will hear the matter for second and third readings at the November 20 city council meeting. After that, we will be monitoring the site plan development and any changes that would be required for traffic control. The present tenuous result would have been impossible without neighbors working together (including working together with other allies from around South Austin and the City) and the data from the
study of Blunn Creek conducted by Dr. Lauren Ross of Glenrose Engineering (this is a 20-page Adobe Acrobat file, requiring free Adobe Reader in order to be viewed).

The neighborhood presentation by all accounts was excellent. And everyone who spoke and showed up was incredible. Although the fight is by no means over, this is one for our history books. Neighborhood representatives will be working with the City staff and Wal-Mart representatives during the next week and beyond to ensure our goal of having, at worst, no degradation of the water quality and quantity to the Blunn Creek watershed.  We are also working with allies around the neighborhood and beyond.  Any communications that you can have with media, including newspapers and TV, and councilmembers would be appropriate.  We will try and have a report by the end of this week on the status.  If you have any information to report, do not hesitate to contact an SRCC officer or area coordinator." Tim Mahoney, president; SRCC Neighborhood Association

this big! see the slide show presented at the November 6 council meeting (credits: Elloa Mathews, Gloria Lee, the LakewayFirst organization); Mr. Rovira speaks eloquently about what Blunn Creek means to him (this is a QuickTime movie, 22 seconds, 2440K, so don't click on the link unless you have broadband; the clip should open in a new page and play automatically)

data support conclusion that the "supercenter" construction would degrade Blunn Creek Contact: Tim Mahoney, South River City Citizens, 326-9944 from press advisory 11/5

"In the aftermath of the Lakeway decision to disallow 'SuperCenters', new evidence raises serious environmental concerns about building one over the headlands of the Blunn Creek Watershed," according to Tim Mahoney, President of the South River City Citizens.

Blunn Creek is unique and not typical of other similar urban creeks in Austin. The unique character stems from a 125 acre headwaters watershed that, until 2000, was largely undeveloped. The proposed Wal-Mart is part of a development pattern that will be the demise of this unique character, despite 50 years of activity within the watershed. Even though there are several options available to reduce or mitigate their impact, Wal-Mart has prepared and submitted a site plan that proposes minimum compliance with City of Austin code. It appears that their proposal would increase the current pollutant load by a factor of 14 times, and severely alter the present baseflow of water to the creek. Development opportunities upstream should not destroy the existing property tax revenue downstream by destroying the integrity of the environment.

WHO: South River City Citizens Neighborhood Association, Tim Mahoney (SRCC President, 326-9944), Lauren Ross (Glenrose Engineering); Wal-Mart Coordinator Richard Suttle

WHERE: Austin City Council Meeting at the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) Board Room, 3700 Lake Austin Blvd. For more information regarding directions call 974-2000.

Thursday, November 6, 2003,
agenda item Z-3



The Zoning & Platting (ZAP) Commission forwarded their recommendation to the City Council regarding this property by a narrow 5-4 vote. At the same time that they sent the recommendation, ZAP Commissioners unanimously also recommended that the City Council conduct a study on the social, economic and environmental impacts of these SuperCenters. The ZAP Commission had no environmental data to consider outside the copies that they were given of the 1995 City of Austin Blunn Creek Watershed report. That report concluded that any additional construction in this area should be specifically reviewed to determine the environmental hazards that would result for the Blunn Creek Watershed. The first opportunity that the City will have for such a review will come Thursday before the City Council. The SRCC Neighborhood Association has commissioned a study that provides plenty of evidence that such construction will be hazardous to the health of Blunn Creek. Blunn Creek snakes through the SRCC neighborhood; many consider it the neighborhood's connection to the environment. With Stacy Park and the Blunn Creek Nature Preserve, Blunn Creek is one of Austin's special environmental jewels.

SRCC will request that the City Council support the proposed study on "SuperCenters", postpone any decision on the Ben White Wal-Mart until such time that SuperCenter Study is done, and/or provide guidance to the developer to begin good faith negotiations with the SRCC neighborhood representatives to ensure that any such development does not harm Blunn Creek. In addition, SRCC recognizes that other development will occur in this area, and there needs to be a long term partnership with the City, the neighborhood and other area business to ensure that standard, formal and cooperative, are established to maintain and retain the character of Blunn Creek.

In 1995, the City Report found that Blunn Creek had the purest water discharged into Town Lake, second only to Barton Creek. In addition, there are many unique environmental features in the Blunn Creek Watershed, including springs and remnants of an ancient Barton Creek formation.

Representatives of various neighborhood business establishments in the area have grave concerns about the proposed SuperCenter, ranging from unfair competition to environmental concerns. For instance, Thomas Mooney, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Sachem, Inc., sent a letter to the Mayor and Councilmemers Monday, discussing his company's history of working with SRCC, and that they support SRCC's "goals to assure the sustainability of the environment and achieve area planning in this section of Austin."

Neighbors of the proposed development also have serious concerns about traffic and compatibility issues, and have additional concerns that South Congress merchants will be inadvertently damaged from the unique business environment that has been created over the last ten years.

Summary of Key Points
**Blunn Creek exhibits a character that is uniquely better than other urban creeks in Austin. This high stream quality and biological activity stems from the headwaters geology that provides a steady stream of baseflow into the creek between rainfall events.
**The proposed Wal-Mart would be located within a 125-acre headwaters watershed. Despite 50 years of urbanization, this headwaters watershed remained largely pervious in 2000.
**The existing construction of Blunn Creek Apartments, Home Depot, and the proposed construction of Wal-Mart will permanently damage the character of Blunn Creek, primarily by covering the land from which 30% of the baseflow is generated.
**Although there are options available to Wal-Mart to reduce or mitigate their impacts, they are currently proposing a development of minimum code compliance. Available options to reduce or mitigate impacts include:
--reducing impervious area;
--purchasing 20.24 acres of currently undeveloped land within the headwaters watershed;
--purchasing land and constructing a water quality, erosion, and infiltration facility for storm runoff from Ben White and areas within the watershed south of Ben White;
--providing infiltrating surfaces beneath on-site water storage areas,
--providing pervious parking;
--depressing landscape areas for storm runoff storage;
--rainwater harvesting;
--providing a living green roof on the building;
--meeting a higher standard for pollutant removal;
--accommodating bicycle and pedestrian access;
--landscaping with exclusively native plants;
--designing landscaping and irrigation to conserve water;
--Implementing integrated pest management;
--Rainwater harvesting;
--Lighting requirements to preserve dark skies;
--Use of local, recycled, and environmentally benign building materials;
--Recycling of construction wastes;
--Requirements for community quality enhancement;
--Meaningful enforcement standards.

Save Blunn Creek! hearing Thursday, 6 November item Z-3 (proposed Wal-Mart at Ben White - Blunn Creek headwaters) "SRCCers and friends: If you've never been out before, this is the city council hearing to attend. We need people to hold signs. We need people to speak. We need people to speak by their very physical presence. We need people to sign up to donate their three minutes to designated neighborhood speakers, including Dr. Lauren Ross, an environmental engineer that we have retained to study the proposed Wal-Mart development. The results of her study as presented last night (November 3 SRCC meeting):The proposed Wal-Mart development would kill the base flow to Blunn Creek. It would increase the pollutant load over 14 times. THIS COULD BE THE END, THE DEATH BLOW, TO OUR BELOVED BLUNN CREEK! Our friends, and the friends we will develop Thursday on the City Council, are our last hope to stop this atrocity! ."..... Tim Mahoney, SRCC president, 326-9944

map of urban watersheds (number 1 is Blunn); map of entral Austin watersheds, showing major streets and roads; City of Austin watershed master plan page on Blunn Creek (an Adobe Acrobat file, with maps and problem-assessment diagrams)

Blunn Creek headwaters (projected Wal-Mart supercenter there and elsewhere) was on council agenda for 23 October hearing on proposed Wal-Mart at Ben White now slated to begin at 4:00 pm today, Thursday, 23 October; listen to KAZI-fm radio 91.7 or over the Internet if you can't be there (map and directions* to LCRA Building on the north side of Lake Austin Boulevard plus update) to support request for one-month postponement (postponement granted for two weeks, to November 6) (see all-in-one e-mail address for council members):

Approved at the October 20 meeting of the SRCC executive committee ~~~

Dear Mayor Wynn, Council Members and City Manager:

On Thursday, you will consider zoning requests for two proposed Wal-Mart supercenters (Agenda item Z-6,
C14-03-0119; Agenda Item Z-7, C14-03-0066).

You will also receive a recommendation from the Zoning and Platting Commission (ZAP) to initiate a study of the economic, environmental, neighborhood and social impacts of Wal-Mart's overall plan for Austin. In discussing the motion for a study, ZAP Chair Betty Baker spoke knowledgeably about the negative effects of Wal-Mart on local economies; she had recently attended a conference on this topic and you may wish to visit with her for specifics.

The two proposed supercenters on this week's agenda are NOT simply two isolated projects. They are part of an overall development plan by the Wal-Mart corporation for our city. As responsible city leaders, you must evaluate their impact as part of this larger plan.

Wal-Mart has announced its intent to open at least ELEVEN MORE SUPERCENTERS in Austin - ONE EVERY THREE SQUARE MILES, for a total addition of over 2 MILLION square feet of built space. Like the two current proposals, each of these supercenters would add over 200,000 square feet of store space (more than four football fields) plus parking lots, 24-hour lights and delivery trucks, and thousands of additional car trips to their respective sites.

This is clearly a lot of new building for any community to absorb, but our chief concerns are not the traffic and visual blight associated with these projects (while substantial, these negative effects are something on which reasonable minds may differ).

We believe the real danger is economic. Wal-Mart's well-documented labor and corporate practices have the potential to do deep and permanent harm our community and its residents, in ways that extend well beyond the proposed store sites.

What will be the true costs to Austin? Please consider the following facts (Sources: Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Department of Commerce website; Business Week; Forbes; San Francisco Chronicle; Thieves in High Places by Jim Hightower; Institute of Local Self-Reliance, Mid-Coast Maine Study; Mississippi State University Extension Service).

1. WAL-MART POSES A UNIQUE THREAT AMONG CHAIN RETAILERS. Wal-Mart is now the largest corporation in the world, with over $240 billion in annual sales. It generates twice as much in total net profits each quarter as the entire rest of the discount retailing sector combined, and is the largest grocery retailer in the U.S., with 15 percent of that market. It sells a fourth to a tenth of all products made by such giants as Kraft, Heinz and Proctor & Gamble, and this marketing clout allows it to impose exploitive, low-wage dictates on much of the business world. Its labor and business practices are considered extreme even by industry standards. No other chain has the power and ability to target Austin for such total market saturation, with such potentially devastating consequences. When other discount retailers come to town, they want a piece of the pie. When Wal-Mart comes to town, it wants the whole pie - and they'd like you to subsidize the to-go box for them.

2. WAL-MART DOES NOT ADD TO THE TAX BASE. A recent study by Mississippi State University Extension Service found that for every gain in sales by supercenters, there was a corresponding loss in sales for local businesses. In fact, general merchandise sales decreased nearly annually after the opening of the first supercenter in any area. Wal-Mart does not create new sales tax revenues; it simply transfers them from existing stores. Also bear in mind that if Wal-Mart's prices truly are lower (a claim some studies have found specious), the actual sales tax revenue for the same items will be lower as well.

3. HOW WAL-MART CLOSES LOCAL BUSINESSES. Wal-Mart routinely engages in a practice known as "predatory pricing" to put local competition out of business. When it opens a new store, it sells products at that store below wholesale price, drawing customers away from local shops. With over 4,500 stores worldwide and annual profits of roughly $7 billion, the chain easily absorbs this temporary loss. Once competitors close, Wal-Mart raises its prices and moves on to its next new store. How many local stores will Austin lose?

4. WAL-MART ELIMINATES THREE LOCAL JOBS FOR EVERY TWO JOBS IT CREATES. Wal-Mart does not fully replace the jobs lost when local business close. The average Wal-Mart employee makes only $15,000 a year for full-time work, defined by Wal-Mart as 28 hours per week; and just 38 percent of Wal-Mart employees have health care benefits. Employee turnover in stores is above 50 percent a year; many stores have 100 percent annual turnover and some reach as high as 300 percent. Who will absorb the health care costs for these underpaid, uninsured workers? What other services will the city have to provide for Wal-Mart's working poor?

5. LOCAL BUSINESS CLOSURES HAVE RIPPLE EFFECTS. In Kirksville, Missouri, a newly opened Wal-Mart supercenter quickly put out of business four clothing stores, four grocery stores, a stationary store, a fabric store, and a lawn-and-garden center. The local daily paper lost major ad revenues from these closures and began to struggle also. What ripple effects might Austin experience with the addition of 11 supercenters? How will our tourist industry be affected when Austin looks just like everywhere else?

6. WAL-MART'S MONEY DOES NOT STAY IN THE COMMUNITY. A recent Maine study found that for every $100 spent at a national chain retailer, only $14 stayed in the community; but when that same $100 was spent in local stores, $45 stayed in the community - three times the amount. The Maine study also found that local businesses contributed four times as much to charity as Wal-Mart. For comparison, the study noted that Target, another large discount chain, donated twice as much to charity as Wal-Mart and routinely bought local advertising. Remember, Wal-Mart does not buy, bank or advertise locally.

7. WAL-MART'S LABOR PRACTICES WILL HURT AUSTIN WORKERS. Wal-Mart has sparked more lawsuits for disability discrimination than any other corporation and the largest class action suit in the country for gender discrimination. Cases against Wal-Mart for forcing employees to work off the clock without pay are pending in 25 states. Regarding Wal-Mart, a top Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawyer told Business Week, "I have never seen this kind of blatant disregard for the law." The San Francisco Chronicle observed: "If you earn a livable wage...you can probably buy all
your monthly needs at Wal-Mart. But that's because the average Wal-Mart employee, who earns about $15,000 a year, cannot do the same." How will such practices affect the health and welfare of Austin workers?

8. WAL-MART KILLS AMERICAN JOBS. The vast majority of Wal-Mart's products are made in cheap labor hell holes, especially China. Despite its claims to "buy American," Wal-Mart is the largest importer of Chinese-made products in the world and has even moved its international purchasing headquarters there. In some cases, it requires suppliers to open their books so Wal-Mart executives can red-pencil "unnecessary costs" such as the use of decently paid labor. Frighteningly, Wal-Mart's growing clout is starting to force remaining big-box rivals to mimic these harmful practices simply to stay competitive. What are the long-range consequences for America's working middle-class?

9. WAL-MART ALREADY DOMINATES AUSTIN'S DISCOUNT RETAILERS. The current Austin phone book lists 10 Wal-Marts (5 regular; 5 supercenters), 6 Targets, 4 Sam's, 3 Kmarts, 6 Weiner's, plus dozens of other chain stores such as Penney's, Sears, World Market, Bath & Beyond, Old Navy, etc. Clearly Austin consumers already enjoy a healthy range of retail choices, but for how long? Wal-Mart already dominates Austin's chain retail landscape with almost twice as many stores as its nearest competitor. With the addition of 11 more supercenters, it will dominate by a ratio of 4 to 1. What are the chances of retaining a healthy mix of retail choices given that imbalance?

In short, the public record of Wal-Mart's corporate conduct raises serious questions about this company's overall impact on the health and general welfare of our community. Given the scope of their plans, it is not unreasonable to ask for careful scrutiny of the real-life consequences and to decide whether these are helpful or harmful to our city.

There is no rush to rubberstamp the current requested zoning changes. Wal-Mart will not be hurt by a delay while we seek valid information; but if we fail to do this, Austin may be hurt beyond measure. Once these supercenters go in, there is no turning back. We cannot bring back closed businesses, lost jobs or our lost quality of life. We will have become just
another place - only poorer.

True city planning is about more than just zoning dirt. To remain healthy, we must start to speak publicly and honestly about hurtful corporate practices and their real-life effects on Austin. Several dozen communities have successfully halted Wal-Mart projects in recent years, including the Texas cities of Dallas and Spring Valley.

State law grants Texas cities the right to zone to protect the health, safety and welfare of their citizens. As our elected leaders, you have the power and responsibility to ask hard questions. No corporation, no matter how wealthy, has an automatic right to a zoning change or the right to dictate land use decisions to a local government.

We strongly urge you to initiate a full study of the economic, environmental, neighborhood and social impacts of Wal-Mart's overall plan for Austin. Please do not let the current projects go forward until we know the true costs for our community.

Rebecca Melanšon
Vice President
Austin Independent Business Alliance
P.O. Box 4400
Austin, Texas 78765

Greg Powell, Business Manager
Jack Kirfman, Political Action Coordinator
AFSCME Local 1624

Susan Moffat
4112 Speedway
Austin TX 78751
453-4280

Roberta Tsukahara, Ph.D.
4504 Reynosa Drive
Austin, TX 78739
(512) 291-4338 (24 hours)
tsukahara@austin.rr.com

Tim Mahoney, President
South River City Citizens Neighborhood Association
512-326-9944
P.O. Box 1961
Austin, Texas 78765

Robin Rather (as individual)
805 Ethel
Austin, TX 78704

Clare Barry
Austin Neighborhoods Together
P.O. Box 40046
Austin, TX 78704

Z- 6 C14-03-0119 - Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending Chapter 25-2 of the Austin City Code by rezoning property locally known as 0 East Ben White Boulevard (Blunn Creek Watershed) from family residence (SF-3) district zoning to limited industrial service (LI) district zoning. Zoning and Platting Commission Recommendation: To grant limited industrial service (LI) district zoning. Applicant: Joe Jung. Agent: Armbrust & Brown, LLP. (Richard Suttle, Jr.). City Staff: Annick Beaudet, 974-2975. (including supporting documents) postponed two weeks to November 6

One-month postponement requested (from the text of e-mail to Councilmember Slusher): . . . The first order of business is to respectfully request a postponement of this Thursday's council hearing for approximately one month. I will be visiting and phoning respective Council members and hope to have your support for our community's request. Secondly, we have secured Dr. D.Lauren Ross, P.E., Glenrose Engineering, to investigate critical elements that pertain to our case. This will require several weeks and hope that the applicant will understand that we were not privileged to any specific details of this case, until recently. With this in mind, we hope that our findings will initiate a more collaborative and holistic outcome for the citizens of our community. We would additionally like to meet with you or your aides to discuss the merits of our case. In this time, we hope to present more constructive details for our case so that you may be comfortable in your deliberations. In addition, we are extremely concerned about adjacent parcels of land in SRCC planning Area 8 that may have options/site plans proposed for them. [Ben White South Congress, IH -35 and Woodward boundaries] The adjacent tract on Payload Pass known as the Galaxy tract (zoned SF-3) may be up for a LI consideration in the near future. In 1998, I asked council for a moratorium of this area in order to complete a master plan of the area. Unfortunately, this request was not implemented. We also are in strong support of the request made by the Zoning and Platting Commission that requests Council to conduct a study of the impacts of big box supercenters. We encourage this type of quantitative and qualitative analysis and hope that Council will honor the Zoning and Platting Commission's request this Thursday. Please respond if we may see you on such short notice. In the event that your schedule is full perhaps e-mail if you will support our request to postpone for one month. Thank for your time in this matter. ...

Z- 7 C14-03-0066 - Wal-Mart - Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending Chapter 25-2 of the Austin City Code by rezoning property locally known as West Slaughter Lane at South IH-35 (Onion Creek Watershed) from rural residence (RR) district zoning; single family residence (SF-2) district zoning; limited industrial services-conditional overlay (LI-CO) combining district zoning; general commercial services-conditional overlay (CS-CO) combining district zoning; and general commercial services (CS) district zoning to community commercial-conditional overlay (GR-CO) combining district zoning. Zoning and Platting Commission Recommendation: To grant community commercial-conditional overlay (GR-CO) combining district zoning with conditions. Applicants: Norman O. Euers (Melvin L. Euers); Melvin L. Euers; Cullen and Parmer Lane, LTD. (Silvestre Garza, Jr.); Slaughterway Retail, LTD. (Andrew R. Pastor); Austin Community Foundation of the Capitol Area (Richard Slaughter); McCullough Mechanical, Inc. (Charles Douglas McCullough); Monroe H. Euers; Norman O. Euers Life Estate (Monroe H. Euers). Agent: Armbrust & Brown, LLP. (Richard T. Suttle, Jr.). City Staff: Wendy Walsh, 974-7719. (continued from 8/28/03). (including supporting documents) passed on first reading

Concerning additional matters related to "big box" development, see agenda items 41 and 54.

45-day moratorium over Edwards aquifer passed October 25

Approved at the October 22 Austin Neighborhoods Council meeting, as reported by SRCC President Tim Mahoney ~~~ Anti-Wal-Mart Coalition
1. We support a ban of big box as proposed over the Aquifer.
2. We hope there will be a DELAY of at least one week on BOTH of the zoning applications for Walmart sites. Our understanding is that neighbors of both sites have unresolved issues that warrant more time.
3. We are requesting a city-wide study of the impact of big box in general and specifically focusing on Walmart. The study should include impact on job creation, wages, benefits, local businesses, traffic and design. The study should begin by reviewing all the available studies from other parts of the country first and develop preliminary conclusions from that material. Next it should focus specifically on impacts on Austin and Central Texas and provide a summary of likely impacts both positive and negative as well as recommended policies to maximize the positive impacts and mitigate or eliminate the negative impacts. At this time we are not advocating a city wide ban of big box, but we strongly recognize that there are serious economic implications for Austin that warrant further study and that may necessitate additional policy discussion and possible action.

The study should be conducted by a neutral third party such as the City of Austin and one of its consultants such as John Hokenyos or by an outside expert such as Michael Oden of the University of Texas.

The study should be complete before any further zoning cases of big box on or off the Aquifer are heard or decided.

If you have any questions about this, please let us know.


Rebecca Melanšon
Vice President
Austin Independent Business Alliance
P.O. Box 4400
Austin, Texas 78765
Greg Powell, Business Manager
Jack Kirfman, Political Action Coordinator
AFSCME Local 1624

Susan Moffat
4112 Speedway
Austin TX 78751
453-4280

Roberta Tsukahara, Ph.D.
4504 Reynosa Drive
Austin, TX 78739
(512) 291-4338 (24 hours)
tsukahara@austin.rr.com

Tim Mahoney, President
South River City Citizens Neighborhood Association
512-326-9944
P.O. Box 1961
Austin, Texas 78765

Robin Rather (as an individual)
805 Ethel
Austin, TX 78704
512 632 0582

Clare Barry
Austin Neighborhoods Together
P.O. Box 40046
Austin, TX 78704

See also ZAP agenda (Tuesday, 14 October). The first of the above two agenda items is at Ben White and IH-35, the driving range (former drive-in movies) at the headwaters of unspoiled Blunn Creek; be there (no need to speak); more information available from SRCC President Tim Mahoney (326-9944); additional background at neighborhood e-mail list, including link to recent Business Week article, "Is Wal-Mart Too Powerful?"

October 13 message from Tim Mahoney, SRCC president, 326-9944: "The SRCC Blunn Creek and Wal-Mart Committee met Saturday (October 11) on the status and strategy for dealing with the issues surrounding the planned development of the site on Ben White to include a Wal-Mart. . . . We met with Dr. Lauren Ross, who we have decided to ask the executive committee to approve retaining to do some engineering work in conjunction with the Wal-Mart site.  As you may or may not know, SRCC has $50,000 in funds available to do Master Planning and we will begin with this project originating in Area 8, the neighborhood area that the proposed Wal-Mart is to be located in.  It appears that if we do not deal with the issues proposed by this Wal-Mart, planning will be done for us by the Wal-Mart people.  The Blunn Creek watershed is located almost entirely within the boundaries of SRCC.   Now is the time to become engaged with this proposed Wal-Mart development.  It is scheduled to be heard before the ZAP Commission on Tuesday, Oct 14, at 6 pm (at the City building at South 1st and Barton Springs), and before the City Council on Thursday, Oct. 23rd.  If not good politics, it should be excellent theatre.  We have been attempting to bring together all areas of the community, city staff and other political and technical forces. We plan to get a ZAP resolution to the City Council asking that the City Council study the environmental, economic and neighborhood compatibility standards applicable to Wal-Mart.  As was stated in the 1995 City staff report on the Blunn Creek Watershed (one of 14 Austin urban watersheds):  "It is recommended that [Water Protection and Development Review Department of the City of Austin] seek to implement comparable infiltration enhancements and water quality controls on other vacant property in the watersheds draining to Blunn Creek south of Woodward street by working with developers as projects are proposed through re-zoning and site plan review."  [page 78]   After the ZAP Commission, we will focus our the City Council hearing currently scheduled for October 23, a mere 10 days away.  As we did not find out about the Wal-Mart at Ben White until a month or months after the other proposed Wal-Marts were known to other neighborhood groups, we will have the advantage that at the October 23 hearing, we should also be on the same timeline as the other Wal-Mart forces.   So we will be working to minimize the negative consequence that any development will have in Area 8 or the whole of the Blunn Creek watershed.  This development, and the others that are coming to the headwaters of Blunn Creek, demand that we focus on developing data and other strategies to bring to ensure a healthy Blunn Creek watershed.   We will build on the 1995 study done by the City of Austin originally at the request of SRCC of the Blunn Creek Watershed.  At that time, Blunn Creek had the 2nd purest water which emptied into Town Lake, second only to Barton Creek.  Now, on too many days, there is no flow at all. As we detail our efforts, our goal is to have technical details to know the additional amount of impervious cover that would result from the development and other options that we could suggest that would minimize negative impact on water quality and baseflow water movement into Blunn Creek.  This would give us information and competence in the short and long term to influence discussions with developers and the City.  Wal-Mart's current plans call for almost 80% impervious cover. " 

Are you able to speak for three minutes? Go by and fill out a card? Can you write to or call individual council members? This is an issue that affects an entire city and a regional ecosystem. When you write or call council members, remind that this is the third and most recently revealed Wal-Mart site in South Austin. The Zoning and Platting Commission has made a recommendation to the city council to commission a study of the impact of "super centers." This is a very sensitive location and much study and thought should go into the deliberations. Do you have ties to Austin organizations who can aid in preserving Blunn Creek and our drinking water? Richard Suttle, representing Wal-Mart, is reported to have said, "Blunn Creek is their [SRCC's] big stick."

The 1995 Blunn Creek Water Quality & Baseflow Protection Alternatives Report Analysis (analysis by Jeff Kessel)(see executive summary of 90-page report at Austin city website)
In response to neighborhood concerns with development proposals in the Blunn Creek headwaters and the potential impacts to the creek, the City conducted a full scale environmental and study of the Blunn Creek Watershed. The objective was to document all critical environmental features in the watershed and to evaluate strategies for preserving these features as the watershed approaches complete build-out. This study provided an in-depth evaluation and site specific recommendations for protecting identified water quality features in the headwaters region, below the proposed Blunn Creek Apartment Site, south of Woodward Street. At the request of the City Council, City staff held several public meetings and obtained neighborhood ideas and support in preparation of this watershed planning effort. The final report provides a detailed inventory of the critical environmental features within the watershed. The report includes recommendations by the City’s Drainage Utility ( now Watershed Protection and Development Review – WPDR) and Public Works and Transportation Department for both water quality and flood control measures. The objective of this substantial planning document was to guide future development and protect the quality and safety of the creek. The seeps and wetlands located in the headwaters, south of Woodward are critical to sustaining wildlife and their habitat and remain extremely sensitive to any development.

We would like to build on this extensive and well-done planning effort, and carry forward the City’s 1995 city report recommendations for preserving baseflow (e.g., seeps, wetlands, etc.). In consideration of the proposed Walmart project, we request the following measures to be taken if the City accepts the Site Development Permit application for this site:

Update the City’s watershed assessment of the headwaters region (south of Woodward). Review the impact of the last two projects in the headwaters region on creek baseflow and the related environmental features. These projects are: (1) Home Depot and (2) Blunn Creek Apartments. These are the two major projects that the City has permitted since the 1995 report. The questions are: have the City’s required site designs to control stormwater functioned properly, and has the pre-development hydrology been preserved as required? We request that the City verify the adequacy of current code requirements toward protecting the headwater tributaries that are lined with cottonwood trees and the identified wetlands on the creek’s main channel immediately downstream of the proposed Walmart site. SRCC would like to participate in the updated study, offering sweat-equity and funding to assist in this updated study of the headwaters area.

Apply report recommendation to promote infiltration of stormwater runoff in the headwaters region of the watershed, to protect/ enhance creek baseflow Per Section 7 of the 1995 report:
"It is recommended that [Water Protection and Development Review Department of the City of Austin] seek to implement comparable infiltration enhancements and water quality controls on other vacant property in the watersheds draining to Blunn Creek south of Woodward street by working with developers as projects are proposed through re-zoning and site plan review." [page 78]

Provide incentives for Low Impact Development (LID) Site Design. Walmart is proposing 23 acres of impervious cover, five in the building alone, over the creek’s headwaters. The site design should slow, detain, retain, infiltrate and purify stormwater runoff. LID solutions offer a system of controls that are designed to achieve these goals and promote infiltration of runoff. LID techniques offer more flexibility in reducing the volume of runoff generated by the site than conventional pond outlet controls, by capturing runoff closer to the source. For example, parking should incorporate pervious paving and the drainage should be controlled by vegetated swales and related infiltration techniques. Rainwater collection and other water-smart landscape designs should be required to reduce the impact of impervious cover.

*directions to LCRA meeting: Some have asked for directions for the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) location: it is at 3700 Lake Austin Boulevard (the Austin City Council meets in the board room). For more information regarding directions call 974-2000. If you have not been there before, it may be worth the initial visit to navigate to the board room. Only VIPs and/or LCRA regular people get to park in the back on the north side through the gate where the guard will be. City Council parking is usually marked off of Lake Austin Boulevard, just to the east and west of 3700 Lake Austin Boulevard. I heard through Jean Mather through RenÚ Barrera that "our" Wal-Mart is set on the 4 pm consent agenda for an extension. RenÚ may want to pull it off that agenda just for the purpose of getting a specific time for the extension; i.e., our preferred positon of one month. I understand that the engineer we have retained (Dr. Lauren Ross) may also speak to tell the city council that she really needs a month to complete her work. So my understanding is that the extension will happen for "our" Wal-Mart (just not how long), but I do not know about the other Wal-Mart-related matters. So my plan is to be down there at 4 pm (usually pretty good parking options, maybe even shade for the early birds) and see whoever gets there. T. Mahoney, 326-9944

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Blunn Creek is the very same water that flows through both Big Stacy Park and Little Stacy Park and thence into Town Lake. Read what the Austin Explorer site has to say about the Blunn Creek greenbelt. See another map as Blunn Creek flows through the parks. Here's a tribute to the Blunn Creek preserve from the National Parks Conservation Association. "Natural stream beds and flood plains prevent erosion; this is a quotation, with accompanying photographs, from a study conducted by students at the University of Texas.The Blunn Creek nature preserve is on this map east of area 5, south of Oltorf Street, and north of St. Edward's University (see detailed map). Courtesy of Sergio Chapa, take a virtual tour (many spring photographs) if you have the bandwidth. Read an evaluation of Blunn Creek watershed conditions, including erosion, water quality, and a map (go to page 4 of this document). Texas Parks and Wildlife Department touts the Blunn Creek preserve as a tourist destination , where 110 species of birds have been recorded over the years, including rare ones.

You may view planning diagrams showing the area around St. Edward's University: one, and two.

South River City neighborhood planning area

map

land-use diagram

City's neighborhood-planning site

neighborhood planning data and land-use maps

City Planning Area 17:
SRCC's area is part of this PA; City round-up of statistics on population, housing stock, land use, education attained by populace, etc., including census-data comparisons 1990/2000
Census info via the Federal government
 
regular meetings of the SRCC executive committee are every third Monday each month at 6:00 pm, Grace United Methodist Church.:::: 2003 directory of SRCC officers and area coordinators ~~ elected March 3, 2003 (information posted March 12, 2003)

Join the SRCC neighborhood mailing list and keep up with fast-moving events! Just go to the SouthRiverAustin site and register. If you would like to sign up, please do, by proceeding directly to the SouthRiverAustin site or by sending your name and e-mail address here; if you would like to invite others to sign up, please do.

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