AUSTIN, Texas - A seafood lunch wasn’t the only thing served up at Freda’s restaurant Wednesday afternoon. Some of the people at the northwest Austin restaurant were there for a protest.
"I’m worried about the security in the neighborhood, I’m worried about my home value," said Bob Mann, who lives in the neighborhood behind the restaurant.
The group that gathered along Pecan Park is protesting a plan by the city of Austin to purchase the Candlewood Suites hotel near Lakeline Mall.
"My nightmare scenario is if this goes through it’s going to destroy our business and destroy Freda’s"," said Marie Chaudhari, who owns two hotels next to the Candlewood Suites.
They're upset because they only recently found out the city wants to transform the hotel into a homeless shelter and resource center. "And we really feel like they don’t care or think about us because last week council member Greg Casar went on record saying I’m disappointed the 2nd hotel didn’t pass through, we can get it across the finish line next week," said Stephanie Goodman, who lives in a neighborhood that’s a black away.
Austin’s attempt at converting an office building and creating a homeless center in South Austin in 2019 failed because a council member argued the site was too close to residential areas and businesses.
Now that no longer seems to apply and that has caught the attention of a high-ranking member of the state legislature. "This is wrong and this should be changed," said Senator Charles Schwertner (R).
Senator Schwertner represents the part of Williamson County where Candlewood Suites is located. Like those at the protest, he did not know about the city’s plan to shift its focus to NW Austin until a few days ago.
"It’s up to Mayor Adler and the city council to address those issues downtown here in Austin versus shipping their problem to Williamson County," said Schwertner.
Senator Schwertner issued a news release and drafted a letter to the City of Austin, notifying them of his intent to address the issue. He is filing a bill to require municipalities when pursuing this type of project to provide proper notification to residents, communities, and governmental bodies.
"And I'm going to fight it all the way. I'm going to get my colleagues, on both sides of the chamber, I’ve already spoken to leadership, and this is a real issue down here now," said Schwertner
While that legislative debate is just now beginning, the fight for residents remains limited to city hall. Tuesday, Williamson County commissioners passed a motion requesting the city to postpone any action on purchasing a hotel for 180 days.
Austin City Council is expected to take up this issue on Thursday.
An online town hall meeting is set to happen Wednesday night, starting at 6:30. Click here to access that town hall zoom meeting.