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ZAP – seeking green standards — delays vote on development

Wednesday, March 4, 2009 by Austin Monitor

The Zoning and Platting Commission put off a decision on a cut-and-fill variance for a new subdivision on Brodie Lane Tuesday night. Commission members want to give the applicant, Continental Homes and DR Horton, time to review the city’s Green Building program, since some members of the commission wanted to make meeting certain green building standards a condition of the variance.


The builders are planning 42 townhomes on the 16-acre site, which is currently undeveloped. Because of the topography of the site, they are seeking a variance to the city’s regulations for cut-and-fill in order to ensure that the homes have level yards and for the construction of a driveway connecting two streets within the development.


Despite a staff recommendation in favor of the variance, some members of the commission were skeptical. “My yard slopes…and it probably needed some fill a long time ago. To me, that is not a hardship,” said Chair Betty Baker. “They knew what they were buying. They could have designed it where they didn’t need a variance.”


Commissioner Donna Tiemann pushed to have the variance linked to a commitment by the builder participate in the city’s Green Building program and install more efficient appliances and plumbing fixtures in the homes when they are constructed.


“Your company builds a lot of houses in our city, and it’s a nationally-recognized program,” she said. “It’s a great marketing tool…people want energy-efficient homes. You may be already doing much of that, and it’s not that many more steps to qualify and then use that to market the project.” The representative of DR Horton at the meeting said he personally was not familiar enough with the program to make a commitment on their level of participation, but could discuss the matter with other company officials. 

The Commission initially split 3-3 on a vote to approve the variance without Tiemann’s condition. Commissioner Keith Jackson made that motion, saying the commission should not put that stipulation on the variance without anyone from city staff present to fully explain the different ratings within the Green Building program.


 “I think it’s unfair to ask an applicant to agree to something that we can’t explain to him,” he said. When that motion failed, commissioners agreed to postpone the case until its March 17th meeting. The commission also requested a staff briefing on the Green Building program, the cost to builders to meet standards within the program, and the estimated savings to homebuyers on their monthly utility bills.

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