Williamson County commissioners are prepared to file a lawsuit should Austin City Council approve the purchase of the Candlewood Suites hotel Aug. 11 for housing.
On Aug. 10, Williamson County commissioners heard from several residents who live near the hotel, located at 10811 Pecan Park Blvd., Bldg. 2,, which is within Austin city limits and Williamson County boundaries. All six residents spoke in favor of a potential lawsuit against the city of Austin should the city approve the $9.6 million purchase. The meeting continues a monthslong debate over the purchase of this hotel between the county and city.
According to the city’s proposed ordinance, the hotel would be used as a domestic violence or other shelter, housing or related social services. The hotel would provide 83 units for temporary housing, and the project would total $11.2 million after renovations. Commissioners and Williamson County residents who spoke at the Aug. 10 meeting are skeptical of the vague wording of the ordinance, expressing concerns the city will change the language to temporary homeless housing if it passes during City Council’s Aug. 11 meeting.
“Now again, there’s another bait and switch where [the city] is saying they’ll vote on this tomorrow, but it could be about a [domestic abuse] shelter or anything else they decide, yet they didn’t communicate with us,” County Judge Bill Gravell said. “The mayor of Austin wonders why we’re skeptical.”
A lack of communication is a consistent issue between the two municipalities despite a resolution City Council members passed June 10 to improve information sharing with surrounding local governments. Williamson County leaders said they were not notified about the project in February when Austin began moving on it, according to previous Community Impact Newspaper reporting.
“Mayor [Steve Adler], you can do things under the cover of darkness, but you will not trample upon the people of Williamson County,” Gravell said.
In addition to other issues, Williamson County residents also have concerns about a lack of communication from the city. Some are afraid the city made a hasty decision to purchase the hotel without doing a study on a potential crime rate increase. Area business owners, such as Freda Chen of Freda’s Seafood Grille, are concerned about a potential impact an incoming homeless population will have.
“I’m trying to stand up for my community,” Chen said. “I’ve been here for close to 20 years. I’m not saying we don’t care, but there are other things we can do to help the homeless people.”
If the city gives final approval to purchase Candlewood Suites and turn it into a homeless housing shelter, Commissioner Cynthia Long said a lawsuit will proceed.
“My hope is that we don’t ever have to take action [against the city],” Long said. “I have not weighed in on whether hotels are the right piece in this mix of addressing homelessness. Where I have weighed in is the appalling nature of Austin’s process and their utter disregard for [Williamson County residents]. To be clear, if Austin proceeds forward it will be my motion next week that we authorize and encourage the county attorney to file this lawsuit.”