Following a storm of protest, council easily passed the 380 agreement between the City and WalMart developer Michael Ainbinder. The vote was 11-4. It will reimburse him upwards of 6-million dollars for planned infrastructure
improvements to the area around Yale & Koehler Streets, near interstate-10 in the Washington Heights. They include wider sidewalks, a jogging path, and upgraded landscaping. While the developer is ready to move forward, CM
Ed Gonzalez didn't feel right about voting for it.
"From my stand point, it's just to continue to be a watchdog to make sure that they do honor the commitments that have already been made. There's an operating agreement that will also be generated with Walmart. They committed to making sure this is a signature store in the country for Walmart, so we're gonna hold them to that type of standard."
CM Sue Lovell voted for the agreement.
"I listened to what the neighborhood had to say, and then my role as an elected official is to make good decisions. To me, the decision to enter into the 380, have the infrastructure put in place in that neighborhood, but more importantly, to continue to have dialogue with the developers to me was the most important. If we had voted against the 380, we would not have gotten the infrastructure that we would like, but more importantly, it would have ended the discussion, which I think is very important, to continue have with the developers to make sure that its a very good development."
Those opposed to the project say they are willing to continue the fight to stop it. Mayor Annise Parker says a lot of residents were confused about the developer receiving taxpayer money.
"The majority of council members understood that that is a bad business precedent to play favorites and say well, 'we don't have any ordinance, but we're gonna punish you, because we don't like you,' and that's what the neighborhood was asking us to do. We have just started using the 380 tool, which allows us to say 'Well if you really want to be a good neighbor, spend some of your money, not in your development or on your development, but in the neighborhood, and that will certainly help us make your development more neighborhood friendly.'"
Developer Ainbinder expects the project to be ready in the spring of 2012.