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West Austin variance case troubles some neighbors

Tuesday, December 1, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano

This month, the Board of Adjustment will take another look at a West Austin case that has some (but not all) neighbors disturbed.

Phil Moncada represented Lee Ann Concienne before the board. Concienne is seeking several variances for her home at 2805 Warren St. in order to retain a pool, deck, pergola and covered concrete area constructed without a permit.

In order to allow these unpermitted features to remain, she sought variances from the board to increase the allowed impervious cover from 45 to 55.85 percent, decrease the side and rear setbacks to zero and decrease the front setback from 25 feet to 2 feet.

Board members voted unanimously to postpone the case until their December meeting.

Moncada explained that the pergola was intended, in part, to provide security for Concienne’s teenage daughter. The structure includes an iron gate.

Concienne has also constructed a brick wall on the property. That wall, explained Moncada, provided drainage for the yard and helped channel water into a nearby easement and the road. He said that rainwater harvesting had been discussed, and he promised to elaborate on alternatives when the case returns in December.

Though Moncada told the board that Concienne has the support of 18 nearby neighbors and produced several letters that say the unpermitted work causes them no harm, the West Austin Neighborhood Group is not supporting her request for variances. WANG representative Blake Tollett explained that the neighborhood association “saw no real justification” for the variances.

“It’s a very troubling case for us,” he said.

A letter written by Tollett more fully explains WANG’s position. He wrote, “It would appear that the owner of this property deliberately placed themselves and their fellow condominium owners in this impervious coverage jeopardy. It is understood that the rear portion of this property, due to topographical variations, is subject to water retention. (B)ut at a certain point excess water does leave the property.”

The letter continues, “What is not addressed is how the existing addition of approximately 1,200 square feet of impervious cover to the property is accounted for or can be accounted for going forward. Water not absorbed on site seeks its own level. Just to the south of Warren Street is the North Taylor’s Creek Slough, which is documented to be subject to flooding and which empties into Lake Austin, the City’s source of drinking water.”

Though Moncada argued that the backyard couldn’t be enjoyed normally because of the topography, he did not have information about that topography, which created a situation some board members found difficult to navigate. Board members opted to postpone pending that information along with a map of supporters and more details about how rain runoff could be mitigated.

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