Little Walnut Creek Library, April 25, 2018, 6:30pm
Voting Members: Lyn Galbreth, Lisa Garner, Monica Guzmán, Lisa Hinely, Colin MacDougal, Daniela Nuñez, Rodney Thrailkill
New Members: Austin Suites (Stephen Rye), Danita Houston, Jerold Kyser, Regis Reed, Larry Wash, Nathan Wheeler
Guests: Amy DeFrank, Maureen Meredith
This called meeting of the North Lamar/Georgian Acres neighborhood plan contact team was held in conjunction with a community meeting on the neighborhood plan amendment application for 8300 N IH35 (Austin Suites), facilitated by city staff. That meeting was arranged by city staff at a location outside of the North Lamar/Georgian Acres planning areas. No interpretation or childcare were provided. Residents of the motel were notified by a posting in the lobby.
Maureen showed the Future Land Use Map (FLUM) and described a neighborhood plan amendment process involving Planning Commission and City Council. Contact team member was allowed to point out that the neighborhood plan contact team existed, and would also make a recommendation, with meeting attendees eligible to vote. No information offered about the remainder of the neighborhood plan, and did not provide copies or web links.
Austin Suites’ agent Stephen Rye handed out generally the same information packet as to the neighborhood team at their February 10 meeting. He went through each of the offers in the owners’ March 29 email.
Motel resident Q: When will the remodeling take place?
Rye A: Four to six months from now, assuming approval. The permits will take 60-90 days.
Motel resident: I’m afraid of getting locked out.
Rye A: I give you my word you won’t be locked out.
Motel residents expressed concerns about economics of renting an apartment vs staying at a motel. There are late fees at an apartment, rather than informal arrangements they have now with the manager. Apartments require deposits and utility payments. Rye says that after the apartment conversion Austin Suites will not be all bills paid. Offer of $500 payment would be to everyone at the motel the day official notice of relocation is given, regardless of how long they’ve stayed.
Discussion of looking at residents’ history at the motel (eg payment, behaviour), rather than considering only an apartment rental application for acceptance and for deposits. Residents shared that they had lived there for many years.
Residents expressed concern that the only notice they got of this meeting was if they happened to see the paper posted in the lobby. Contact team member expressed strong concern that Rye had told her he would make sure they got the same notice as the city mailed. City staff person suggested motel residents didn’t need notice until the Planning Commission hearing was scheduled. Rye suggested second meeting at motel, with residents notified individually. Contact team and neighborhood association members asked that be a public meeting, to continue to assure that all stakeholders were getting the same information and having the same discussions with each other. [Update: Rye instead held this meeting privately on May 4.]
Remodeling will take place all at once. Pool will be repaired. Resident asked if elevators would be repaired. Interiors will be renovated. Exterior changes will be cosmetic.
Remodeled units will “probably” be targeted at 60% of median family income (MFI) for the austin-area. Rye thinks it would be a Class B property after the remodel. (Realtor definition: “Class B properties can be 10 to 25 years old. They are generally well maintained and have a middle class resident base of both white and blue-collar workers. Some are renters by choice, and others by necessity.”)
Austin Suites is prepared to sign a Memo of Understanding (MOU) with ECHO (Ending Community Homelessness Coalition) relating to reserving 20 units for households in HACA’s tenant-based rental assistance (TBRA) program.
Q: Will owners commit to accepting other vouchers (eg Housing Choice, Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing)?
Rye A: Don’t know. They might since they’re willing to accept these.
Q: Will ECHO be paid for their services to manage the program?
A: No, this program is funded through the city.
Other promises the applicant is making could be included in a private restrictive covenant. The city would not enforce if there were no city money involved. The neighborhood team does not have organizational capacity to bring a lawsuit if that were needed. Another group such as Austin Tenant Council or BASTA could do that. The private covenant could include the applicant putting up a bond to assure performance.
Discussion on timeline for the case was that Austin Suites would like to continue any needed conversations, but they have a small cash flow from the property since most (~150 out of ~220) of the units are empty. They do not expect that they would get to city council until after July. Planning department staff wasn’t sure when Planning Commission would resume hearing contested cases.
Maureen ended the meeting before remaining issues could be raised, or any discussion of tradeoffs in stakeholder/applicant desires. Rye did provide contact information and expressed willingness to hear any questions.