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Wednesday, February 19, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano
BOA balks at mandating design standards for Bouldin Creek project
Bouldin Creek Neighborhood’s bid to require compliance with its design standards found a receptive audience at the Board of Adjustment last week. However, the board balked at requiring new construction to comply with the neighborhood’s voluntary standards.
Owners Eustolio Vasquez and Jose Castro were seeking variances to decrease minimum lot width requirements for their properties at 304 and 306 West Milton Street. The lots were platted in the 1930s. The variance would allow the owners to build new houses on the lots and replace the current homes that stand in disrepair.
Though the Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association had no specific problems with the variance request, the neighborhood seized the opportunity to ask that whatever is built on the lots comply with the neighborhood character.
Bouldin Creek resident Cory Walton showed the board examples of some recent construction in the neighborhood that did not fit its character. Walton also detailed some of the aspects of the voluntary design guidelines, such as pitched roofs, open fences, and garages that are behind the facade of the house.
“What we’re finding, though, is that unless people are coming to you for a variance, there’s no leverage whatsoever to have people respect those standards,” said Walton. “The whole concept of human interaction with the streets and respect for the original character of the neighborhood is really being destroyed.”
Walton said he had no issue with the replacement of the current houses, just a concern with what would replace them.
The board was hesitant to require new construction to comply with the neighborhood’s design standards. They cited the standards’ inherent voluntary nature, as well as unfamiliarity with the standards in their entirety.
However, they made a stab at keeping future construction within existing neighborhood character by limiting it to a 0.4 floor-to-area ratio, and requiring a pitched roof and porch. They also asked that the architect meet with the neighborhood to review the standards before construction.
The board voted 7-0 to approve the variance, with those conditions. Board Member Sallie Burchett was absent.
Though they shied away from requiring the neighborhood’s standards, Assistant City Attorney Brent Lloyd assured them it would not be out of line. He said that if the board deemed that the condition was necessary to meet their “compatibility with area character finding” required for any variance, they could certainly do it.
“I think that would be a new thing for the board to do, and I think it’s right for you to be considering whether that’s appropriate, and how that should be implemented, but from a legal standpoint, you can impose reasonable standards,” said Lloyd.
Board Member Bryan King suggested that, in future, if Walton (or others) wished to enforce design standards, they clearly stipulate those standards as a condition of their support.
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association: Covers the area, roughly, south of Lady Bird Lake, north of Oltorf Street, west of South Congress Avenue and east of South Lamar Boulevard.
City of Austin Board of Adjustment: The city's Board of Adjustment is a quasi-judicial body that decides on variances, special exceptions and can issue interpretations of code.