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Elizabeth Pagano is the editor of the Austin Monitor.
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Despite OK from city, couple’s new duplex stymied by neighborhood group
Thursday, August 23, 2012 by Elizabeth Pagano
An oversight by the city, an unaware property owner and a watchful neighborhood created the perfect storm, putting a halt to the construction of a couple’s home.
The result? A retired couple hoping to build a duplex in Cherrywood were shocked when, after moving forward with city-approved plans, their permit was suspended following a complaint from the neighborhood. They went to the Board of Adjustment last week to plead their case.
John Kinney, who owns the property at 3305 Layfayette Avenue, was startled by the complaint by neighbors, who noticed the planned garages ran afoul of the Upper Boggy Creek Neighborhood Plan.
“We were stunned,” Kinney said. “We had no idea that anybody could come in and trump a city-issued building permit at any time during the construction.”
The city issued the Kinneys a permit in May, and they proceeded with construction. The foundation for the project was completed on June 14.
However, a June 11 complaint by Girard Kinney (no relation) on behalf of the Cherrywood Neighborhood Association instigated an investigation of the parking and garage placement of the duplex. The city ordered a halt to the construction – the same day that the Kinneys completed the foundation.
Though John Kinney believes he has since brought the parking issue into compliance, problems with the garages remain. He is seeking a variance to allow the garage to be constructed as planned, citing economic disaster for him, and an abandoned foundation for the neighborhood, as hardships. He also argued that the slope of the lot, which places the majority of the garages below street level, mitigated the impact of the design.
Despite expressing compassion for the Kinneys, neighborhood watchdogs aren’t budging. “I have great sympathy for this applicant,” Girard Kinney told the members of the Board of Adjustment. “I feel terrible about the situation they are in, and I have personally tried to reach out to them and help in every way I can. I would love to see this happen, and for them to be the developers and make it work.”
“It’s just that we’ve worked so hard against front-facing garages,” Girard Kinney continued. “It’s not the aesthetic of the front-facing garages, it’s all those cars being in the front yard rather than people and porches being in the front yard addressing the street.”
Girard Kinney noted that the neighborhood had been burned in the past, and was wary after not receiving notice about a house built in violation of the McMansion ordinance.
Girard Kinney said that, in this case, the neighborhood had trouble getting copies of the plans. “When we finally got the plans, we saw immediately that it violated code. By then, they had already poured the concrete,” he said. He added the neighborhood had unsuccessfully tried to work on a compromise with the owners.
“We’ve offered our help and tried to reach out to them, but they’ve really not been interested in our input,” said Girard Kinney.
For his part, John Kinney said that he was unaware of the neighborhood association or its plan. He told the board that he was not invited to attend meetings at which his property was discussed.
Stayed tuned. After an executive session to talk over the legal aspects of the case, the Board of Adjustment voted to postpone. They will hear the case again on Oct. 8.
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