Heights-Area Walmart Not Needed, Opponents' Study Proves Conclusively

Unlike the first Heights-area Walmart meeting, area residents showed up for a second go-round armed with some real ammunition.

Apparently, a local neighborhood nonprofit called Responsible Urban Development for Houston hired an Austin consulting firm to find out if a Walmart near the Heights will, in fact, create jobs and spur new economic activity, requirements for getting a 380 agreement from the city.

The results (shockingly, the firm that was hired by the anti-Walmart people decided the Heights didn't need a Walmart) were presented before Wednesday night's meeting during a mini press conference in front of the venue.

The consultants decided that residents of west central Houston already have plenty of retail options.

Like the first meeting, much of the last night's gathering -- held at the High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice -- focused on the proposed 380 agreement, which would reimburse developer Michael Ainbinder with public tax dollars -- estimated at $6 million -- for money his company spends on infrastructure upgrades surrounding the site.

Hair Balls spoke with the city's deputy director of public works, Andy Icken, who clarified a few things about the proposed 380 deal.

Icken stressed that the agreement is with developer Ainbinder and has nothing to do with Walmart. The money that is reimbursed comes from property taxes generated after the development, whether or not Walmart is a tenant, is up and running for one year.

The reimbursement money would be paid out during a ten-year period.

The idea of using 380 agreements is fairly new and rarely implemented in Houston, and this Ainbinder project would be only the fifth to use one. The future HEB development at West Alabama and Dunlavy, for example, will not be built with a 380.

Icken said, however, that he would like to strike a separate deal specially for Walmart that would regulate things like which roads delivery trucks can use to enter and exit the property. Those details, of course, will have to be finalized in future contracts.

"I think it's appropriate to have that agreement with Walmart," Icken said. "Citizens here have made some good points."

Residents are running out of time to offer input, however, because according to Mayor Annise Parker, who said she doesn't shop at Walmart for political reasons, the 380 agreement will be on the City Council's September 15 agenda.

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