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Board of Adjustment rejects Southwest Parkway variance

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 by Austin Monitor

The Board of Adjustment rejected a variance Monday for a ten-acre tract on 8413 Southwest Parkway, despite neighborhood support for the applicant’s request. Property owner Tim Jamail wanted permission to build an office building and parking garage on his property, but needed a variance to the compatibility requirements in order to construct the buildings as tall and close to the property line as he wanted.


Jamail also owns the adjacent tract, where the property is zoned GO-MU-CO, and he built a residence for himself on that property. There is an existing site plan for the lot where he wants to build, which is zoned IP, but Jamail told the Board he wanted to change that plan to satisfy neighbors.“I have been in discussions with the neighborhood,” he said. “They have several elements of the existing site plan that they find objectionable, namely access to Sunset Ridge at the back of the property and the location of the building, due to its proximity to the neighborhood.”


Jamal said that moving the building away from neighbors and closer to his own GO-MU-CO property would be preferable to all involved. “What we are trying to do is shift the office building away from the neighborhood towards the western property line,” he said. “We are running into some problems in that the temporary use as a residence is triggering compatibility.”


While the request had the support of the nearby neighborhood association, it was opposed by the Save Our Springs Alliance. “A valid hardship is not one that involves strictly financial or personal reasons,” said SOS staffer Andrew Hawkins. “Financial and personal reasons seem to be exactly what this variance is sought for. Not only is their no hardship, there is also a reasonable use without granting the variance.” Hawkins also argued that the planned development would be inappropriate given the environmental sensitivity of the surrounding area. “As you know, this tract is located over the contributing zone of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer and that is where the city has traditionally sought to minimize density.”


Members of the board were more concerned with whether the findings of fact justified a variance. “You’ve got a clean slate. You can build pretty much anything you want here right now,” said Board Member Michael Von Ohlen, who pointed out that the IP site is vacant. “Your findings aren’t getting there. I don’t find a hardship because you’ve got a clean slate.”


Board Member Leane Heldenfelds disagreed. “There are very few times when you are dealing with a true blank slate in the City of Austin,” she said. “He has major trees that he’s dealing with. The neighborhood concerns are kind of over-reaching, too. To me, it seems like he does have some hardships.”


Heldenfelds moved to grant the variance, and she was supported by Von Ohlen and Board Member Greg Smith. But with only three of the seven members of the board in support, the motion failed.

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