AUSTIN (KXAN) — Williamson County has filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the City of Austin from using a former hotel to house people experiencing homelessness, a day after Austin councilmembers approved funding for the renovations.
The former Candlewood Suites site is located on Pecan Park Boulevard, near the intersection of RM 620 and U.S. Highway 183.
Austin City Council voted Thursday to negotiate a $3.9 million contract with Family Eldercare to renovate the former hotel into Pecan Gardens. The project is expected to provide 78 permanent housing units and supportive services for people over the age of 55 with disabilities.
It comes almost a year after Council approved the purchase of the hotel, at a price tag of $9 million.
The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order and an injunction against AHFC Pecan Park PSH, a nonprofit created by the city, which would stop the conversion of the hotel in violation of restrictions for the intended use of the property, according to a press release from Williamson County.
The lawsuit claims the property is zoned for commercial use only, and that a 2004 plat note for the property says, “development of this subdivision is restricted to uses other than residential.”
“The City of Austin continues to show complete and utter disregard for the law, its neighbors, its citizens and community leaders as it barrels recklessly ahead with its plans for the permanent housing of the homeless at this location in Williamson County,” said County Judge Bill Gravell. “The actions by the City of Austin have left no other options than to pursue legal action.”
Gravell said the lawsuit is necessary “in order to protect Williamson County’s tax-paying, law-abiding citizens to whom the City of Austin has turned a deaf ear to and trampled on.”
A spokesperson for the City of Austin said the city had not yet been served with the lawsuit, but that it was aware Williamson County has been considering litigation for quite some time.
“During that time, after many community and stakeholder conversation, the City has been moving forward with solutions to address homelessness in the Central Austin Region. We are pleased to be moving forward to establish a permanent supportive housing facility in Williamson County and look forward to the work that Eldercare will do to operate the facility,” the spokesperson said in a statement to KXAN. “Eldercare has had success with similar projects and we are hopeful that our neighbors experiencing homelessness will soon benefit from the renovated facility and services it will provide.”
This is the second lawsuit aiming to stop the project. In March 2021, a small business located near the property filed suit.
Chaudhari Partnership said it was seeking compensation for the potential loss in value of its properties and easement, according to the lawsuit. It also alleged the city was in violation of deed restrictions on an easement it jointly held with the city.
Rupal Chaudhari, owner of the business and founder of the group Stop Candlewood, is currently the Republican nominee for Travis County Judge. She’ll face Democrat incumbent Andy Brown in November.
Council’s approval of the conversion project was delayed due to concerns after a break-in at the property in May. Councilmember Mackenzie Kelly says security will be on-site throughout the entire renovation process.
“We need to make sure that there’s a visible presence on the property, to ensure that our investment in the city is well taken care of,” Kelly said.
Williamson County Commissioners have funded a special prosecutor to assist the county attorney’s office in pursuing the lawsuit.