Ainbinder, the company that owns the Heights-area property being considered for a Walmart, is not quite ready to share its information.
Michael Ainbinder. chairman & CEO of the company told Hair Balls that incomplete information has been shared prematurely.
"We are not yet able to provide the answers and information that the public is requesting, but plan to do so within the next two to three weeks," Ainbinder said. "We met with representatives from several neighborhood groups last week (including the Houston Heights Association, West End Civic Association and Super Neighborhood 22) to solicit their input, and are developing plans and architectural elevations that will hopefully be responsive to their desires and concerns."
Meanwhile the councilmember for the area is speaking up. A bit.
Councilmember Ed Gonzalez told Hair Balls that had he would have attended this week's neighborhood meeting on the proposal if he had known discussion was going to be so extensive. The discussion was docketed for 25 minutes, but went on for more than an hour as other items on the agenda were tabled to accommodate the growing crowd of opinions.
Gonzalez said he wants the community to be aware that he is not avoiding the issue, and he is doing everything he can to stay in contact with the them and the developer to get answers to the questions they've been asking.
"We're trying to give the community some voice in what is going on and be as accessible as possible about the issue," Gonzalez said. "I've interacted with community via social media and phone calls, and so I think the community, to a large extent has been engaged in the process. We understand the frustrations...the information came out really early, and now all these questions come up -- we hear you, we got you, we're going to try to incorporate all that but give us some time."
Gonzalez confirmed Ainbinder is working on traffic studies, which will need to be reviewed by the city through public works.
"They have been working on a traffic impact study, so I'm waiting. I've asked for those results, and I'm waiting to receive those, so I have not seen them yet," he said.
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"Who ever is doing the traffic study is going to have to make sure they include a traffic analysis of the area surrounding all that property, so that's what I'm waiting to see...did they take all of those streets into consideration?"
Gonzalez said that he understands the objection to Walmart, but it would be more productive to focus on issues that could possibly be changed or controlled, like the design of the development and improvements to the surrounding area.
"At the end of the day if we're just saying I don't like this particular retailer, why not, 'Well, I don't like how they do business,' well that's kind of a hard," Gonzalez said. "As a city, I think for us to really make an impact, they can write to the potential retailer, they can write to the developer and say, 'Hey we don't like who your trying to do business with, and we're not going to support them,' they have every right to do that, but in terms of us as a city government to dictate what retailer comes or doesn't come into the area, I do not think is the most effective way for us as a matter of public policy.
"I think where we can be more effective is, I do have some concerns about the design and scale, and what's it going to look like, what's your landscaping plan going to be like, and how is this going to improve the quality of life and not be a detriment to it -- those are things I'm going to fight for, those are things that I am advocating and I'm going to hold them accountable for."