Williamson County declines lawsuit against Austin over Candlewood Suites saga—for now

Candlewood Suites Northwest Austin
The Candlewood Suites property in Northwest Austin is a proposed site for 80 units of permanent supportive housing that would house local residents experiencing homelessness. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Candlewood Suites property in Northwest Austin is a proposed site for 80 units of permanent supportive housing that would house local residents experiencing homelessness. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)

After Austin City Council went into its annual summer recess after declining to authorize the purchase of a hotel to house individuals experiencing homelessness, officials from Williamson County held off on voting to file a lawsuit against the city.

On June 15, Williamson County commissioners held a lengthy discussion about the public disagreement between the two entities over the proposed purchase of the hotel. The Candlewood Suites property under the microscope is located at 10811 Pecan Park Blvd., Bldg. 2, Austin—within both Austin city limits and Williamson County boundaries.

At the end of the discussion, commissioners declined to take a vote on the corresponding agenda item, which would have instructed the Williamson County attorney to file a lawsuit against the city of Austin.

Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell, however, continued to issue a public warning to the city.

“If you’re going to move forward on this ... we will bring it forward to the court to consider,” Gravell said at the end of the discussion June 15.

The tabled Commissioners Court item comes after Austin City Council held several discussions around the proposed hotel purchase June 10. At that meeting, the last before council entered recess for six weeks, council members passed a resolution intended to improve information-sharing between city leaders and surrounding counties during future talks on regional homelessness strategy.

“I think it’s really important that we be as collaborative as we can with our partners in the region. And I think there are lessons to be learned from Candlewood, and I think that this policy here represents that change," Mayor Steve Adler said June 10. "I think we could have, after this property was put under contract, given notice and heads-up of that and engaged other area leaders. And I think it’s important that we do that in the future.”

The resolution, sponsored by District 6 Council Member Mackenzie Kelly, includes a provision for Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk to inform county leaders of relevant real estate transactions. The Candlewood Suites hotel is located in Kelly’s Northwest Austin council district.

At its June 10 meeting, Austin City Council further declined to vote to authorize the purchase of the Candlewood Suites property. As previously reported by Community Impact Newspaper, the city is considering buying the 80-unit hotel property for up to $9.5 million. According to city documents, the Candlewood Suites property would be renovated to provide permanent supportive housing units for local residents experiencing homelessness. Council first approved the purchase in February, and the transaction is currently in its due diligence period.

Since the Austin City Council vote in February, Williamson County officials have continued to protest the acquisition of the Candlewood Suites property. Commissioners in early February asked Austin City Council to delay purchasing the property for 180 days.

At that time, county commissioners said the city had not communicated with county officials about its desire to purchase the hotel for permanent supportive housing units. On June 15, Commissioner Cynthia Long reiterated her opposition to the city’s acquisition of the Candlewood Suites property.

“To be clear, I have spent hours and hours working with Austin council members—talking to them and talking to experts in the field of homelessness. ... My comments are not about their plan; it’s about their lack of planning with other entities,” Long said. “The approach the city has taken is a bad one. This has been a failed process from the beginning.”

Additional reporting by Ben Thompson
By Iain Oldman
Iain Oldman joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after spending two years in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he covered Pittsburgh City Council. His byline has appeared in PublicSource, WESA-FM and Scranton-Times Tribune. Iain worked as the reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition and is now working as the editor for the Northwest Austin edition.


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