Williamson County sues city of Austin over project to house homeless people

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Williamson County has filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the city of Austin from using a former hotel to house homeless people, a day after Austin council members approved the funding for renovations.

The former Candlewood Suites site is located on Pecan Park Boulevard near the intersection of MR 620 and US Highway 183.

The 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 homes and support services for people with disabilities over the age of 55.

This comes nearly a year after Council approved the purchase of the hotel, at a price of $9 million.

The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order and injunction against AHFC Pecan Park PSH, a non-profit organization created by the city, which would stop the conversion of the hotel in violation of restrictions on the intended use of the property, according to a press release from Williamson County.

The lawsuit claims that the property is zoned for commercial use only and that a 2004 flat note for the property states “development of this subdivision is restricted to non-residential uses.”

“The City of Austin continues to show a total and utter disregard for the law, its neighbors, its citizens and community leaders as it recklessly moves forward with its plans to permanently house the homeless at this Williamson County location,” the county judge said. Bill Gravel. “The actions of the City of Austin have left no choice but to pursue legal action.”

Gravell said the lawsuit is necessary “to protect the law-abiding citizens and taxpayers of Williamson County whom the city of Austin has turned a deaf ear to and trampled on.”

KXAN has contacted the City of Austin for comment and has yet to receive a response.

This is the second lawsuit aimed at stopping the project. In March 2021, a small business near the property filed a complaint.

Chaudhari Partnership said it was seeking compensation for the potential loss in value of its properties and easement, according to the lawsuit. He also alleged that the city violated deed restrictions on an easement it held jointly with the city.

Rupal Chaudhari, business owner and founder of the band Stop Candlewood, is currently the Republican nominee for Travis County Judge. She will face incumbent Democrat Andy Brown in November.

Council approval of the conversion project was delayed due to concerns after a burglary at the property in May. Council member Mackenzie Kelly says security will be on site throughout the renovation process.

“We need to make sure there’s a visible presence on the property, to make sure our investment in the city is well taken care of,” Kelly said.

Williamson County commissioners funded a special prosecutor to help the county attorney’s office continue the trial.

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