The Williamson County Commissioners Court has asked the Austin City Council to delay a decision for six months on whether to buy a hotel to house homeless people. The hotel, the Candlewood Suites near Texas 45 and U.S. 183, is in part of Austin in Williamson County.
Commissioners said Tuesday they did not learn about the city’s possible $9.5 million purchase until recently, and have not had time to assess the effects of the purchase.
“I am asking the city of Austin to communicate with stakeholders,” said Commissioner Cynthia Long. The hotel is in her district.
“As of last Friday, the city of Austin has not reached out to any government that might be impacted — not Williamson County, not Round Rock ISD, not Bluebonnet Trails (the local mental health authority), not Williamson County and Cities Health District,” Long said.
The Austin City Council postponed a decision on whether to buy the hotel at 10811 Pecan Park Boulevard from Jan. 27 to Wednesday at the request of Council Member Mackenzie Kelly, who represents the district where the hotel is located.
Kelly is hosting a town hall meeting about the hotel from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday at bit.ly/39DoHxk.
A spokesman for Kelly declined further comment on Tuesday.
Kelly, who was elected in November, campaigned heavily on a platform that many of the city’s policies regarding homelessness were not beneficial.
On Sunday, residents of the Pecan Park and Anderson Mill neighborhoods held a protest about the plans for the hotel.
Hotel owners and residents who own property near Candlewood Suites told commissioners on Tuesday that homeless people who camp in the area already were causing problems.
“If the city buys Candlewood as a homeless shelter it would just zap our business,” said Marie Chaudhari, one of the owners of the Hampton Inn that shares a driveway with Candlewood Suites.
“Ever since homeless camping was allowed on the streets,” Chaudhari said, “crime has increased so much we had to hire a security guard.”
Rupal Chaudhari, the chief financial officer for the Hampton Inn, said the coronavirus pandemic has already caused occupancy rates to plunge from 86% to 30% to 40%.
Scott Carson, who lives near the hotel, said his neighborhood is already suffering the effects of homeless people camping in the area, including an increasing number of vehicle break-ins and beer bottles, needles and human excrement left on the streets.
Carson said 1,500 people have signed a petition against the city buying the hotel.
Freda Cheng, the owner of Freda’s Seafood Grille on Pecan Park Boulevard, told the commissioners on Tuesday that if homeless people lived in Candlewood Suites, they would have to walk across highways to get to a grocery store.
“They (the homeless) need not just housing but somewhere maybe where there is more room to grow; not 10 feet away from the Hampton Inn,” she said.
Other people who live near Candlewood Suites told the commissioners the hotel was too close to several schools.
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This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Williamson County asks Austin to delay decision on buying hotel for homeless