The city of Bee Cave is making strides toward allowing more development of workforce housing in the city.

Bee Cave City Council unanimously agreed Dec. 14 to move forward with commercial real estate company JLL Inc. to assist in the process of receiving proposals from developers to build on a roughly 20-acre plot of land located on Bee Cave Parkway. The city began working with JLL initially on the sale of the existing City Hall property in the Hill Country Galleria to have a representative for communication with the Galleria or other potential buyers.

“This is their business, and they’re highly qualified to assist us in the process,” City Manager Clint Garza said. “We don’t have to do anything if we don’t like the proposals that we get. We can always decide against it.”

JLL will assist the city in drafting the request for and solicitation of responses from developers as well as with the review process and recommend suitable action for the city, Garza said. Given that development could proceed in various ways, the city anticipates developers may submit multiple proposals. Under the agreement included in city documents, JLL will also help with negotiations with the selected firm.

Given that a large portion of people who work in Bee Cave do not live in Bee Cave, workforce housing seeks to address the problem of employee shortages in the area by offering livable, walkable housing to residents, Mayor Kara King said. However, King rejected the option of selling the City Hall site for a larger plot farther from the city due to the cost of land near Hamilton Pool Road and the need for walkability at City Hall for employees.

Several local business owners attended the meeting to speak in favor of workforce housing and expressed their struggles with hiring employees.

Michelle Smallwood, owner of Tutor Doctor of Lakeway, said when children everywhere need tutors, employees would rather work in their own neighborhood than make the drive out to Lakeway.

“Before COVID[-19], it was difficult to staff, and now it’s near impossible,” Smallwood said. “Having tutors drive up here to tutor in person, which our community needs, is very difficult. I’ve lost customers because I was not able to fill tutors in person.”

Some restaurant owners were unable to attend the meeting due to short staffing, said Dori Kelley, a member on the board of directors and incoming president of the Bee Cave Chamber of Commerce. Local Chick-fil-A owner Darryl Zavodny said he has had to limit hours because there is an imbalance for supply and demand for employees within the city.

“It’s always been a challenge to find staff in the Bee Cave area, and as a business owner I recognize that’s part of what I signed up for, but I’m here to suggest that the economics in this area make it really difficult,” Zavodny said. “What we enjoy in this community is a beautiful community with great service, and my fear is we end up losing the ability to serve our community.”

JLL requires a 3% fee from the gross transaction, a price that Council Member Courtney Hohl and Meg Conine, a 25-year real estate veteran of Conine Realty Advisors Inc., said is standard for most real estate transactions. City code prevents acquiring brokerage services through competitive bids, a process recommended by some citizens in opposition of the measure.

“There are a handful of commercial brokerages here in town, but JLL I would say is first position in terms of the ability and experience of doing this, so I don’t even really think there’s a question as to whether or not we accept JLL’s proposal going forward,” Hohl said. “It’s kind of a no-brainer, as far as I’m concerned.”

JLL sent over a draft of the request for proposal Dec. 10, but the city has not yet been able to review it, Garza said.

“We are in dire need, and the simple fact that y’all are bringing this to the agenda and are willing to talk about it means the world to the business community out here,” said Christy Black, owner of three Primrose Schools in the Lake Travis-Westlake area and the chair of the Lake Travis Chamber of Commerce. “We are struggling, and everything y’all can do to help improve that, even though it’s a long-term fix, it shows support for your businesses.”