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Elizabeth Pagano is the editor of the Austin Monitor.
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Landmark Commission stalls demolition permits on two Eastside houses
Monday, April 2, 2012 by Elizabeth Pagano
Unmoved by staff recommendations to allow demolitions to proceed on three East Austin homes, the Historic Landmark Commission delayed demolition on two of the properties, granting the release of a demolition permit to a third.
Though the commission was not permitted to postpone the case twice, they effectively did just that last week with two of the three houses by asking staff to initiate historic zoning instead.
The commission granted a third house, located at 1105 Lambie Street, a demolition permit with the stipulation that a City of Austin documentation packet be attached.
All three houses had been postponed from the last Historic Landmark Commission meeting in order to allow time for the developers to meet with the neighborhood. El Concilo leader Marcos De Leon said that he was unable to reach either the applicant or Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky over the last month, though he did leave messages asking them to attend a neighborhood meeting on March 19.
Lex Zwarun of Newcastle Homes said that he received no such message, and had no luck tracking down De Leon on his own.
“I think we were beyond proactive. I think I was probably bothering Steve (Sadowsky) with my phone calls and emails,” said Zwarun. “We were given 30 days to do it, we did our part. The other party did not cooperate, or failed to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Chair Laurie Limbacher stated that she hoped there could be a happy resolution to the case.
“It may or may not be known to people, not that it makes any difference, but Mr. De Leon is a distinguished public servant. He has been, in the past, County Commissioner. I would think that you all could have some fruitful discussion,” said Limbacher. “I know you have common interests about the neighborhood. You want to have a project that is a success. Mr. De Leon represents not only his neighborhood association, but a general level of interest in nurturing the community.”
“The reason the city ordinances require the Historic Preservation Office to review every demolition permit is our job is to make sure that we don’t inadvertently remove a building that has potential historic significance, or a building that might be incorporated into a project even if it is not actually designated as a landmark,” said Limbaugh.
Zwarun told In Fact Daily that a redesign to incorporate the existing houses would be “economically impossible.”
“The houses are beyond repair. It’s not a matter of taste; it’s not feasible to do what they are considering. The other thing that’s frustrating is that staff flat-out recommended that these have no historical significance, and they’re beyond repair. And one citizen shows up after not replying to us for a month, so they’ve tabled us again for another month,” Zwarun said.
The first house discussed, built in 1937, was located at 2600 Canterbury Street. Staff recommended that the demolition packet be released, as the house did not warrant individual designation as a historic landmark either architecturally or in terms of historic significance.
Sadowsky told the commission, “These houses have pretty simple histories… I don’t think additional research will bear out anything different,” when asked if he needed time to do more research.
“I move that we postpone,” said Myers, who then was reminded that was not an option. “I move that we let another 30 days go by while the applicant works with the preservation officer and hopefully the applicant and Mr. De Leon can get together and talk about this further.”
Myers later said that this was a motion to initiate historic zoning on the property. Her motion passed 5-0.
A similar motion to initiate historic zoning at 2004 Holly Street, which was constructed in 1930, also passed 5-0.
The commission also voted 5-0 to release the demolition permit upon submission of a City of Austin documentation package for 1105 Lambie Street, which was built in 1939. Sadowsky told the commission that this house had a much lower likelihood of being included in a historic district, due to its location.
Sadowsky told the commission that he would “take the lead” in setting up a meeting between De Leon and the applicant.
“This is something that is very important to our community. And like I told Steve, we want to sit down and talk to them… There might be an impasse, there might not be,” said De Leon.
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