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Thursday, April 17, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano
Artz Rib House project shows difficulty with remodeling plans
Though there were strong indications that some Board of Adjustment members are among those missing a restaurant where Artz Rib House once stood, they will have to wait along with everyone else for a proposed remodel to get sorted with the city.
Artz Rib House at 2330 South Lamar closed in spring 2012. The following year, the city approved a site plan exemption request for a remodel of the restaurant. In June 2013, a site plan was rejected by the city because it didn’t comply with that previous exemption.
Development Assistance Center Manager Christopher Johnson explained that the work underway was not a remodel under code. With only 25 feet of wall of the original building left standing, Planning and Development Review Director Greg Guernsey determined that there was no existing non-complying structure to modify.
This has left the project in limbo, without an approved building permit, after the demolition didn’t match the given exemption.
Ellis Winstanley of Tradelogic Corp. was at the Board of Adjustment asking for an appeal of staff’s decision Monday night. He said that they were unable to find written guidelines on partial demolition or commercial remodel, and was told that the field inspector was the final authority on the issue. Winstanley said that their field inspector told them that the standard procedure was to leave one wall remaining and, though they had planned to leave more than that, demolition revealed foundation problems, and walls that needed to be removed.
Though sympathetic, board members voted unanimously in favor of staff’s original decision, with Board Member Michael Von Ohlen absent.
“I think what you are doing is a good thing. I live in the neighborhood and was at Artz, and there’s probably nothing there that needed to be kept,” said Board Member Melissa Hawthorne. “I think, in my opinion, staff did not err.”
Hawthorne went on to say that if Winstanley returned with variance requests to complete the project she “would be very open to that.”
Board Member Bryan King agreed with Hawthorne, saying, “There’s only one or 2 percent of that building left, so when you take 98 percent away, it’s no longer a remodel.”
“Having said that, I’m very sympathetic to the neighbors and the neighborhood association…I’ve been in Artz a gazillion times and love it. I would love to see it return to what it was,” said King. “I would love to see you do what you’re going to do here. But, as far as the interpretation, it’s no longer a remodel.”
“I too would be very sympathetic to a variance request to allow you to do what you want to do,” said King. “But in interpreting this it not being a tear-down flies in the face of being reasonable.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Board Members Fred McGhee and Alternate Stuart Hampton.
Despite this, the remodel won neighborhood support. Zilker Neighborhood Association’s Lorraine Atherton spoke in favor of the remodel and reinterpretation of staff’s decision.
“Of all the demolitions that I’ve seen in the neighborhood over the last 20 years or so… this is one of the very, very few that actually does seem to be in compliance and doesn’t exceed the non-compliance of the original structure,” said Atherton.
Guernsey explained that what ultimately happened on the site was not the work that they had exempted. And, though the building plans did include a provision that they could be demolished if they were rotten or unsafe, the plans “showed a majority of the walls were to remain.”
“It’s a new foundation, all new walls – save a section of about 25 feet or so, (and) a whole new roof,” said Guernsey. “If you deem that this is an existing non-complying building with only the 25 feet of wall remaining out of a 7,000-square-foot structure, then I would say this is an interior remodel.”
“In cases where we have new floors, new walls and new roof I don’t think it’s unreasonable to call that something other than a remodel,” said Guernsey.
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
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.