Naked City

The Sewers of the Villas

Vilification of the Villas on Guadalupe, the supersized, upscale student housing complex being built on the Drag, persists. Some neighbors speculate that utility repairs now underway near 29th and Guadalupe -- a block north of the Villas -- are being made specifically for the Villas' benefit. Such suspicion has prompted calls to the office of state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, who recently sent a letter to Mayor Gus Garcia inquiring about the project. "I understand the Villas on Guadalupe has been a contentious issue for the city of Austin," he wrote, alluding to the lengthy conflict between area residents and the developers of the complex, which includes 150 units and a parking garage for almost 400 cars.

The city's Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Dept. and Water and Wastewater Utility deny any public-funds-for-private-gain shenanigans. Utility spokeswoman Laurie Lintz says the city is replacing the sewer lines not to serve the Villas but because they date back to 1929. The pipes' old age has contributed to repeated sewage overflows in the area, she said, noting that the project was authorized in early 2001 -- well before the City Council approved construction of the Villas. Furthermore, she said, several water lines can no longer adequately serve the community in the event of fire; for this reason, 2-inch lines are being replaced by 8-inchers, and the city is installing additional fire hydrants to improve safety.

Regarding the Villas, Lintz says the $1.1 million utility project -- slated for completion in May -- "may be helpful, but that wasn't the intent." The Villas are expected to open in August.

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