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Board of Adjustment rejects variance for Cherrywood duplex

Monday, November 26, 2012 by Elizabeth Pagano

After months of deliberation and negotiations between the owners and the neighborhood, the Board of Adjustment has finally ruled on a dispute over an East Austin duplex project.


Teddy and John Kinney thought that they were in the clear this summer. With permit in hand, they poured the foundation for their new duplex at 3305 Lafayette Avenue in the Cherrywood neighborhood. That same day, they were informed that the neighborhood had noticed their plans were in violation of the neighborhood plan, and they would have to stop construction. Though some issues with the design were cleared up relatively quickly, the biggest issue – the fact that the two garages were closer to the curb than the façade of the house – was not easily resolved.


Last month, the Board of the Adjustment postponed a decision for the second time, instructing the owners to meet with the neighborhood association and come up with a compromise. Teddy Kinney, one of the owners, returned to the Board of Adjustment this month to explain the meeting had taken place, but that was about it.


She explained that she had met with some of the neighbors on October 29, with three elevations and two site plans in hand.


“We did reach a compromise and we all left the meeting, I think, happy about it. But it blew up,” said Teddy Kinney. “We have no compromise.”


Architect Girard Kinney, who is a member of the Cherrywood Neighborhood Association and no relation to either John or Teddy, disagreed. He told the board that while it looked like they were going to get there, in the end there was no consensus.


“What they had was a lot of carefully-colored drawings, but no real new ideas about how to solve the problem. We believe the problem is solvable, and I apologize that we were not able to get there,” said Girard Kinney.


However, what did come out of the meeting was a scheme that would move parking to the sides of the house, and transform the front garages into rooms. This alternative, provided by the owners and brought to the meeting, ultimately sank their own request for a variance.


After some talk about porches and arbors and a brief philosophical debate that seemed to pit street engagement against home security, Board Member Bryan King pointed out that the variance was not necessary.


“They’ve shown that they can do it without the variance. They’ve overcome their own hardship,” said King, who moved to deny the variance and let them build the option that doesn’t require it.


Teddy Kinney said that she would have to think over whether they would choose to build the new plans which, without garages, would appeal to a different tenant. Though she was reminded she had ten days to appeal, she appeared eager to end her time at the Board of Adjustment.


“We could be satisfied with that,” said Teddy Kinney. “We would really like this over tonight. We really can’t go further down this road. It’s not been an easy one.”


Girard Kinney said that, though the neighborhood had not met formally since the meeting with Teddy Kinney, the plan that repositioned parking at the sides of the house wasn’t ideal, but it was generally thought to be better than the front-facing garages of the original plan.


The board voted unanimously, 7-0, to deny the variance.

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