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2003-09-26
Lakeway, TX. City Council Votes to Place Limit on Store Size on November Ballot

Residents in Lakeway, Texas have declared a preliminary victory over Wal-Mart's plans for their community. According to the group Lakeway First, the City Council on September 15th voted to put a non-binding referendum prohibiting big box development on the November 4, 2003 ballot. Here's the Lakeway First report: "Over five hundred hundred residents jammed into the city's Activity Center to hear the Lakeway City Council address the issue of big box development. The Lakeway City Council bowed to the will of area residents and agreed to put the issue to a vote of the electorate. After weeks of sometimes acrimonious debate among citizens and Council members and under intense lobbying over the last few days, the Council members agreed to deliberate separately on the recommendations made by the Zoning and Planning Commission. Specifically, the Council members decided to defer a vote on the creation of a new C4 (Large Retail) classification district that would have permitted building footprints up to 200,000 sq. ft. They then approved changes in the city's C1 (Retail) and C2 (Light Industrial) zoning classifications districts that will limit the footprint of a single building to no greater than 100,000 sq. ft. Anticipating this possibility, the city's attorney then handed the Council a draft of a new ordinance calling for a non-binding referendum to allow Lakeway voters to decide whether the new C-4 district should be created or not. The Council unanimously passed the ordinance for placement on the Nov. 4, 2003, ballot. The C4 classification will be subject to a non-binding referendum on the Nov. 4 Lakeway ballot. The vote means that, as of September 16th, no project incorporating a commercial or industrial building with a footprint greater than 100,000 sq. ft. can be built within Lakeway unless its General Development Plan (GDP) has already been accepted by the city. The Wal-Mart supercenter shown in the proposed 'Avenue of the Lakes' project is situated in a C-1 district and is now no longer viable, because the Rio Development Corporation (Rio) had not submitted its GDP prior to Monday. This saga began last February when the Rio Development Corporation unveiled a preliminary proposal to the Zoning and Planning Commission. Over two hundred angry Lakeway citizens turned up for the zoning hearing. The development included a 24-hour Wal-Mart SuperCenter, a Lowes Home Improvement store, and other retail and office space totaling almost 600,000 sq. ft. covering 100 acres. The proposal fronted on RR 620 and stretched some 2,000 ft. to the West, and from behind the back yards of homes on Rolling Green Drive south to Lohman's Crossing along 620. The entire development would drain into Yaupon Creek, which in turn drains into Lake Travis. After the meeting, a grassroots organization was formed, naming itself Lakeway First, with a the vision of preserving the quality of life in Lakeway and an immediate goal of stopping the Wal-Mart project. Since that time, the group has fought changes to the city's Comprehensive Plan favorable to large retail development, opposed (unsuccessfully) the rezoning of the affected properties from agricultural to commercial, launched two petition drives that resulted in the gathering of over 1,200 signatures in opposition to the project, held town-hall meetings, and most recently, staged a number of protests throughout the city in advance of the September 15th. Council meeting. Our group knows its job is not over, but we are confident of an overwhelming victory in November, and that the council will continue to adhere to the will of its citizens."

What you can do: Even though the Council only agreed to a non-binding referendum, if the measure is adopted, it will be hard for the City Council not to establish a cap on buildling size. Wal-Mart is a company that has spent large sums of money to try to win such referendums. Residents cannot raise the kind of money that Wal-Mart and its developers put into such campaigns. Lakeway First would do well to warn local voters to fasten their seatbelts, because Wal-Mart is likely to hire telemarkers and do direct mailings to try to "buy" votes against the referendum. For information on the Referendum contact Lakeway First at info@lakewayfirst.com. For more information on past referendums, search this database by the words "voters" or "ballot".










 
 
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