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Island Cove boat dock variance passes with some tension from neighbors

Friday, October 12, 2018 by Alyx Wilson

At its Oct. 2 meeting, the Zoning and Platting Commission approved an environmental variance on a site plan for a boat dock sitting below Mount Bonnell at 4409 Island Cove. The variance passed with a “soft no” from staff and pushback from a neighboring property owner.

Chris Herrington of the Watershed Protection Department said staff could not recommend the project for approval. However, the Zoning and Platting Commission did recommend granting the variance in a vote of 9-0-1 with Chair Jolene Kiolbassa abstaining and Commissioner Abigail Tatkow absent.

Homes located located on Island Cove have a channel running behind them where owners can pull their boats into personal dock garages. This particular case has to do with one of the last properties to be developed at the end of the canal.

According to Atha Phillips of the Watershed Protection Department, the owner of the property was hoping to build a new home and a two-story boat dock on the vacant property. In order to do that, they wanted to fill in the the area where the two docks currently are and cut out one larger slip to fit two docks inside of it on the far north side of the property at the end of the channel.

The applicant’s agent David Cancialosi explained that the amount of dredging would equal out to the amount of land that would be filled if the project were approved.

“What you have before you today is a plan that is two levels above the existing condition of the shoreline, and a new dock that is totally code compliant,” said Cancialosi.

Tim Wilschetz, who described himself as a licensed civil engineer with over 35 years of experience in the field, is the owner of the property directly across from the project, and came to speak against the development with a list of concerns and questions.

Wilschetz said he and his wife purchased their property in 2012, and they were informed that the owner of the property adjacent to their own may choose to develop a structure one day. However, he explained that he was not made aware of any right to dredge for a new dock structure, and did not know that a possible dock could extend up to 20% of the waterway in the 92-foot canal.

“Had we known that such a right existed we likely would not have purchased our property,” Wilschetz said.

He said that the new structure could be anticipated to impact boater safety and the liability of homeowners affected, and was concerned that the new structure would be built very close to a small bridge where only one boat can fit through at a time.

“On a daily basis boats can be seen reversing throttle quickly to allow oncoming boat traffic beneath the bridge,” Wilschetz said, and went on to describe his concerns with his property liability and the possibility of an increased level in boating accidents.

“I think the operative phrase that he mentioned was that when he purchased his property he was aware … that there would be construction of some kind,” said Cancialosi.

Cancialosi reiterated that the proposed project was as condensed as possible, and that the dock would only extend up to 18 feet into the canal, and that smaller canals in Austin had dealt with the same requests before.

“It’s fair to say we can’t control the traffic as it goes through the channel, but we feel that the location proposed is certainly the best option rather than setting it in the middle or putting it on the adjacent property line,” said Cancialosi.

Liz Johnston with the Watershed Protection Department said that this was not an area to expect that boats would would be traveling at high speeds.

“It will constrain the canal more than what it is today, but it does not exceed what code allows,” said Johnston.

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