Judge Emily Tobolowsky granted the East Village Neighborhood Association a temporary restraining order on Friday afternoon halting Walmart from moving ahead on its plans to build a Sam’s Club in the Cityplace area.
Tobolowsky was filling in for Judge Phyllis Lister Brown. She questioned attorneys for both sides as well as city attorneys defending its neighborhood notification of change of zoning. Some of her questions at the morning hearing indicated she was hedging on the side of not pushing ahead with a project that was not actually her case.
The restraining order stops the city from issuing a building permit for the 100,000-square-foot retail space.
Among the variances granted by the city is one involving parking. The city has granted a variance requiring fewer spaces than required by ordinance because customers may shop in the area using DART transportation. Cityplace station is a short walk from the planned location.
Demolition permits have already been granted. The restraining order does not cover those because even if the Sam’s Club project is halted, The Trammell Crow Company may move forward with other retail development. The neighborhood association was not challenging that.
The controversy revolves around what a mega-store does to a neighborhood by putting small retailers out of business and creating massive traffic jams on already-crowded streets with no plans to upgrade those streets.
The closest Sam’s Club to Uptown was on Park Lane and Greenville Avenue. That store remained open less than 10 years. Since the site was abandoned by the company, no new retailer has taken up the space. The acres of empty parking lots surrounding the empty megastore has added to urban blight in an area that leads the city in crime just blocks away from NorthPark.
In court, the neighborhood association argued that the rezoning request was for mixed-use development. Their attorney said they were expecting something similar to West Village, just blocks away on the opposite side of Central Expressway. They argued one megastore is not mixed-use development.
The neighborhood also argued that as Uptown has become more densely developed with mid-rise and high-rise structures, a megastore does not mesh with the area’s growth.