Three years ago, this picturesque lakeside city of 7,000 shelled out nearly $4 million — a figure representing more than half of its annual budget — to buy the sprawling villa. After a couple of years of failing to unload it, the city has turned to using it for the occasional city council retreat and, more recently, renting it out to tourists.
“People love it,” said Jacqueline Wittmuss, owner of JW Properties, which manages the rental for the city.
Not everyone. Paying top dollar with public money to acquire a manor featuring 20-foot ceilings, a giant pantry and a three-oven kitchen “was not the wisest decision,” said Mark Tippetts, a former city councilman.
"It's not the best situation," added Ed Tidwell, Lago Vista's new mayor.