WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas - In the parking lot of Freda's Restaurant on Pecan Park, in Northwest Austin, is where a very informal gathering took place Monday.
Security cameras recorded the early morning tour by Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell, Commissioner Cynthia Long as well as Austin council members Ann Kitchen and Mackenzie Kelly. The images are grainy but they clearly show a long-awaited discussion between the two governmental bodies apparently has started.
"Yeah, I hope it is a good sign," said Freda Cheng.
Cheng, who owns Freda’s Restaurant, was notified about the meeting but not invited to it. Her business is next to the Candlewood Suites. It’s the location that Austin City Council vote on Thursday to purchase for a homeless shelter.
"Wrong choice to put it right in the middle of the community here," said Cheng.
The Candlewood is located in the Williamson County part of Austin. It is next to other hotels and residential neighborhoods. "We are not debating the merit of the project we are just debating the location," said Sanjay Chaudhari,
Sanjay and Rupal Chaudhari manage their family's hotels which are located next to Candlewood. They are also encouraged by the morning meeting and extended an invitation to the mayor of Austin as well as other councilmembers to do the same.
"Visit us, sit down and talk to us, we are rational people, we are not against homelessness, we are not against their project either, but we want them to see why we are so concerned," said Rupal Chaudhari.
There's been little information coming out of the city regarding how the center will operate. The big concern for residents and business owners is that the center will become nothing more than another downtown ARCH. The homeless center - with its long lines outside has impacted the entertainment district.
It has also triggered long discussions about its effectiveness. The Pecan Park community fears a similar situation will happen if Candlewood becomes a shelter and service center.
"We are asking the city, what are the restrictions, can they put some Covenants in the rules, that there won’t be that here," said Sanjay Chaudhari.
If talking fails an attempt to block the transformation from hotel to shelter could be decided in court.
Williamson County commissioners Tuesday will consider hiring a law firm to lead that fight. But there's still hope that can be avoided; with more visits.
"Just look at the property, walk around the area they will know it’s totally wrong idea to buy the Candlewood Hotel right at this community," said Cheng.
Regardless of what the county decides to do the business owners tell FOX7 they will continue to fight.