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Board of Adjustment denies variance for Tarrytown home

Monday, June 25, 2012 by Elizabeth Pagano

Despite city permitting errors, the Board of Adjustment last week told a frustrated developer that he would have to change his plans, denying him a variance that would have allowed continued construction on a Tarrytown residence that apparently violates both the McMansion ordinance and the neighborhood plan.


Amir Moazami is in the process of developing 2100 Elton Lane for Moazami Endeavors, LLC. He was seeking a variance for a garage that violated the McMansion ordinance in terms of floor-to-area ratio (FAR) and the neighborhood plan. Despite the problems, city inspectors twice approved plans for the house that included the garage.


The Board of Adjustment voted unanimously to ask that the garage, which is already partially built, be modified into a carport that is open on four sides.


When asked how the structure was permitted in the first place, Principal Planner John McDonald didn’t have much of an explanation, saying that the reviewer who approved the plans was no longer employed with the city.


“I don’t know, since I can’t ask, if the neighborhood plan was looked at closely during the review. It’s obvious that the floor-to-area ratio was missed,” said McDonald.


“The city approved the plans,” Moazami told In Fact Daily. “The city that we rely on to review these plans reviewed them, approved them, did it twice, and we’ve done nothing but follow their rules and build what we were told to build. And then 70 percent into completion, this comes up. I don’t know how anybody could logically come to a conclusion that anything other than finishing it is what needed to happen, but that’s what they decided should happen.”


A suggestion that the board’s findings exclude mention of city error by Assistant City Attorney Cindy Crosby was shot down by the board, which opted instead to include the city’s error as a hardship.


“I want it on record that a mistake was made by the city,” said Board Member Susan Morrison.


Neighbors opposed the variance, pointing out that their neighborhood plan specifically prohibits front-facing garages.


“Let me tell you what’s important to me,” said Edward Schunk, who lives directly across from the house. “I sit on my front porch and watch the neighborhood. I want whoever buys this house to be able to sit on the front porch, right in front of that house as we can do in our neighborhood, and not have a garage or a carport or a car in front of him. … That’s the way our neighborhood works, and we’d like to be able to retain that.”


Chair Jeff Jack struggled with his vote, saying that the case should never have come before the board. Given the circumstances, he said the decision was a reasonable compromise.


Moazami said the property is already on the market.


“Now what I’m marketing is a carport rather than a garage, and that has a significant impact on value. It’s going to drive away probably 70 or 80 percent of the buyers regardless,” Moazami said. “This was all planned very methodically and strategically on the front end. … There are more implications that trickle down than what they think.”


“If you’re developing in Austin, the one thing you’ve got to know about is the neighborhood plans, the neighborhood associations … This is a hard lesson you’ve learned,” said Board Member Heidi Goebel. “In Central Austin, the neighborhood is a stop you’ve got to make.”

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