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Landmark Commission postpones action on West Austin demolition

Wednesday, April 2, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

Developers itching to demolish a 1933 cottage in West Austin’s Heritage neighborhood will have to wait a month longer, after a ruling by the city’s Historic Landmark Commission last week.


Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky allowed that the 1933 House at 902 West 30th Street did “have some architectural interest.” He also revealed that one-time owner Professor Orville Wyss was “instrumental in the invention of Desenex.”


“So, if any of you ever played sports, and ever got athlete’s foot, you can thank Professor Wyss for his invention,” said Sadowsky.


Daniel Verdin with Verde Development spoke on behalf of the demolition. 


“As much as I appreciate Formula 3 Tinactin…I still cannot understand why we would keep (this) structure,” said Verdin, referring to an anti-fungal foot treatment.


Verdin said the house had a number of structural problems, including “zero existing sub-floor,” electrical and plumbing that isn’t up to code, masonry that doesn’t connect to the walls.


Several neighbors showed up to oppose the demolition.


David Olds told the commission that he believed the property contained ancient Native American artifacts. In addition to artifacts that he found on his own property next door, Olds also found artifacts at 902 West 30th while landscaping for the previous owner.


“My concern is that in this whole area, dirt will be put in dump trucks and carried away,” said Olds. “It’s something that I think is important, and something that I think should be looked at before the demolition is allowed to move forward.”


“I would tend to agree with you, on a personal level,” said Commissioner Mary Jo Galindo. “But professionally, I realize the laws that pertain to archeological sites don’t really have any power over private property.”


Galindo encouraged Olds to record his site. Chair Laurie Limbacher noted that “archeological significance” was one criterion for designating a historic landmark.


Neighbor Jared Maxwell also spoke against the demolition. He doubted claims by the new owner that the house “couldn’t be saved.” He said he bought a similar house down the street several years ago, and successfully renovated the original structure.


Both Maxwell and Olds also expressed concerns that a large heritage oak tree near the house would be destroyed by the demolition and subsequent construction.


“There’s a lot of really nice oak trees – it’s what makes our neighborhood really nice. There’s already been a substantial amount of them (that have) died, because of development,” said Maxwell. “I’d hate to see somebody go that route out of simplicity.”


Mark McDaniel said he was concerned about the “incremental erosion of single-family houses” in the neighborhood. He expressed concern that the current house would be torn down in order to build a stealth dorm.


Verdin said that they were planning on keeping a traditional cottage structure on the land in the current footprint, and would be preserving all heritage trees currently on the site.


“We are not planning on turning this property into a sort-of a rental or duplex or anything. My client is planning on relocating from Dallas in the future,” said Verdin.


Limbacher said that she would like information about the viability of the project, given the placement of the heritage trees and the fact that the house is on a through lot. Verdin assured her that those were issues that they were working through with the city.


Commenting that the project seemed to be “in flux,” Commissioner Dan Leary proposed a month postponement in order to work with the neighborhood and further develop building plans.


The commission voted unanimously to postpone the case, with Commissioners John Rosato and Terri Myers absent.

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