Monday, March 10, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

Board of Adjustment rules staff incorrectly determined address

Common sense prevailed at a specially called meeting of the Board of Adjustment Tuesday night.


The board met to interpret whether staff had acted in error in issuing a building permit at 3110 Grandview Street, which is located in the Heritage Neighborhood. The lot is a “through lot” with frontage on two streets, and at the heart of the appeal was whether staff had determined the front of the property incorrectly, leading to a tent that was incorrectly drawn.


Neighborhood resident Betsy Greenberg explained the reason for her appeal, speaking on behalf of the Heritage Neighborhood Association. She said that the front of the house was clearly on Grandview, like the rest of the houses on the street. Staff had ruled the front of the lot was on Owen Street by determining that the driveway was the primary access to the house.


Greenberg maintained that the driveway was clearly in the back of the house, with the prime entrance in line with the house’s address. She said that using the driveway to determine the front “made no sense.”


The board agreed, and overturned staff’s interpretation unanimously, ruling that the front of the lot was on Grandview. Their interpretation of the code will be used by staff to determine the front of through lots from now on, a subject on which principal planner Daniel Word told the board they would appreciate some clarification.


“If the address says Grandview, then that’s your primary entrance. That’s where you get your mail, that’s where you get your deliveries, that’s where your guests come – if you call someone coming into town to visit and give them your … address, that’s where he’s going to come,” said Board Member Michael Von Ohlen. “To me, that’s just common sense.”


That common sense took a bit of reworking, and, in the end, the board ruled that the front of lot line could be found by using the address of the property on the smallest dimension of the lot, where services are received and by a front porch that has access to a front door as criteria.


Though the case will define how staff deals with through lots in the future, it won’t change that much about the project. Sabas Flores of Kipp Flores Architects explained that they could develop the lot under either set of rules, and had originally submitted plans using Grandview as the primary access.


“Either which way it works. It’s just a shame that he’s been put on hold since August because of all this opposition. We’re here to follow the rules and will follow the rules,” said Flores.


The board made similar determinations before, in a variance case, but that was not seen to be a specific direction to staff. Von Ohlen explained that this interpretation is expected to have a much broader impact.


“I think it’s important for the design community that we are consistent, predictable, and it all makes sense,” said Board Member Sallie Burchett. “(This was) a suburban standard being applied in an infill.”

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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.

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