You can't tag this
Annise Parker says no more delays: Heights Walmart to get its City Council voteWednesday
Well, it appears this is it. Ready or not, the City Council will vote on whether to approve the 380 agreement between the City of Houston and Ainbinder for the Heights Walmart project in its Wednesday meeting.
Dozens of constituents who gathered at City Hall Tuesday afternoon to voice their concerns were told that City Council wouldn't delay the vote to review new information given to council members by community groups opposed to the project.
Why? Because, according to Mayor Annise Parker, the city has "a hard deadline with Ainbinder."
The deadline centers around financing Ainbinder has to put in place, according to Parker. The mayor also maintained that Ainbinder would move forward and build the Heights Walmart with or without a 380 agreement. Parker said she would fight to overrule any attempt to tag Wednesday's vote and delay it (the vote on the 380 agreement was originally scheduled for last week's City Council meeting and tagged to this Wednesday).
The 380 agreement between developer Ainbinder and the City of Houston would establish obligations for Ainbinder and Walmart to fulfill as well as provide $6 million in taxpayer money for the project from the city. It's unclear how those obligations would be enforced, however, as this particular 380 agreement includes language that states that the improvements the city wants "may be modified by the Developer at any time to modify, add, or remove Improvements."
The 380 has been characterized by opponents as a sweetheart deal for Ainbinder and a sneaky budgetary move by the city to procure public improvements and avoid paying for them for many budgets to come. Parker argues that the 380 agreement gives the city and its citizens the best chance to have some control over a project that will happen with or without it.
Council member Jolanda Jones noted that the city went to Ainbinder with the 380 agreement rather than the developers coming and asking the city for it — the only project where this is the case.
As usual with this hot-button proposed Walmart, passions ran high at Tuesday's forum.
"It's a slap in the face of women, of small businesses, of low-income families whose homes will be torn down," one woman who rose to speak said.
Another citizen opposed to the Walmart dismissed the idea that the city has gained concessions from Ainbinder, arguing that the real problems with putting a big box store in the area have been ignored. "Our concerns are not a bunch of trees and a dead-end jogging trail," she said. There was talk that Walmart would cannibalize other smaller stores in the area and redirect revenue rather than generating new revenue.
While Ainbinder and Walmart did not have any official representatives at City Hall Tuesday, a few people did speak up in favor of the project.
"This is an opportunity," an older gentleman said. "We need Walmart. A bunch of snobs have moved in and they don't seem to care about people making less money. I think it's fashionable to be anti Walmart."
When City Council members asked the speakers how they should vote on the 380 agreement if they have to vote Wednesday, the overwhelming chorus came in with, "No."
Of course, the real telling point will come at Wednesday's council meeting. CultureMap will be there, providing extensive coverage and getting you the results of the vote.