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Council trio takes issue with Board of Adjustment ruling

Monday, June 8, 2009 by Austin Monitor

Three Council members who served on a task force that wrote the city’s current Commercial Design Standards, have informed the Board of Adjustment that they believe a recent ruling by the board was erroneous.

 

Council Members Laura Morrison and Brewster McCracken and Council Member elect Chris Riley penned the message as a result of the board’s decision to allow several variances for a drive-in bank in the Rosedale neighborhood.

 

After the BOA granted the variances, Chris Allen co-chair of the Rosedale Neighborhood Association Zoning Committee, wrote a letter asking the Council to weigh in on the bank’s variances and noted he was worried about how the board would deal with a variance for a nearby hospital project.

 

Allen said that the board had granted 100 percent of the variance requests this year, and said the rehab hospital should not be allowed to proceed as planned.  “We all know that the Compatibility Standards are the key element to ensuring that neighborhoods can remain livable as our commercial corridors get redeveloped.”

 

“Based on information presented to us, both from the Rosedale Neighborhood Association and from BOA members, it appears the BOA may have lacked important information about the policy intent of the building placement and urban design requirements along Urban Roadways and Core Transit Corridors. This appears to have contributed to the Board of Adjustment determining that the case before it constituted a hardship when in fact such situations were specifically contemplated in the formulation of the ordinance and the site requirements were specifically intended as part of the City Council’s policy making and land use regulatory authority,” the trio wrote.

 

Rosedale zoning co-chair Chris Allen wrote to the officials asking them to explain some important aspects of the ordinance to the board.

 

As a result, the Council Members wrote to the board that the ordinance “was very deliberately intended to require that commercial buildings build up to the sidewalk,” putting parking behind or beside the building, avoiding “suburban style projects along” urban corridors. 

 

They also pointed out that board Chair Frank Fuentes had defended the board’s actions about such cases by pointing out that the ordinance is relatively new and complex. “He indicated that he and other BOA members could benefit from additional direction by Council and staff” on the design standards. They concluded the letter by saying “we urge you to take this into account in your review of the case for reconsideration.”

 

That reconsideration is not on tonight’s board agenda, but Allen said that was due to a technical difficulty. The board is slated to reconsider a denial of several variances for a proposed hospital in the Rosedale area. (See In Fact Daily, May 13, 2009.)

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