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Tuesday, October 16, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

No-show at the Board of Adjustment almost gets denied variance

For the second month in a row, the case of 4913 Avenue G came before the Board of Adjustment, and for the second time, it was postponed due to logistics.

Although last month the case was postponed due to issues with the notice, at the Oct. 8 meeting of the board the applicant on this case, Jeffrey Ragsdale, was not present, much to the dismay of the board members. Due in part to the lack of his presence and the “misleading” nature of his application, the board moved to deny his variance request to reduce setbacks and maneuverability space within the alleyway abutting the home.

However, Board Member Melissa Hawthorne explained, “I really am uncomfortable denying someone who did … what they were told to do … without them having their say.”

The only person who took the opportunity to express their say was neighbor Denise Mansfield, who was in opposition to the project. “It’s obvious since the basic structure is already there, the applicant did not apply for the variances before building. A practice, in my opinion, that should not be encouraged/allowed,” she explained in emailed comments to the board.

According to documents, although Ragsdale never obtained the necessary variances to construct the secondary structure on his lot, he was nevertheless granted the permits.

“As he was about to finish the building … he was notified that the permit was issued in error,” said Hawthorne.

Despite the fact that the applicant has the required permits, board members were wary of granting the variances needed to continue the work.

“His petition for support was extremely misleading. His petition was to get a sink put in, it wasn’t for a variance for the setbacks,” noted Board Member Brooke Bailey. “There’s just a bad smell about this for me.”

Similarly, Board Member Don Leighton-Burwell pointed out that because Ragsdale’s application was “duplicitous and rambling,” Leighton-Burwell got the impression that the applicant was attempting to obscure some facts.

In spite of strong feelings from many of the board members that the application was unclear, the motion to deny the variances was superseded by a motion to postpone. The board unanimously postponed the case until November.

Hawthorne and board liaison Leane Heldenfels indicated that because of the complex nature of the situation – the building process is ongoing despite lacking proper variances and the applicant was absent at the hearing – it would be preferable to postpone the hearing until November to allow Ragsdale the opportunity to offer an explanation and a defense for why he needs the variances.

Heldenfels noted that although she was unsure why he didn’t appear on the evening of the eighth, she was regularly in contact with the applicant, and he was aware that his application was being discussed.

Hawthorne sympathized with Ragsdale’s situation. “It sounds like he’s been on quite a long journey, and I’m sorry,” she said.

Map courtesy of Google Maps.

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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.

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