Tuesday, November 13, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

Board of Adjustment postpones setback request with no site plan

The Board of Adjustment needs a good reason to grant a request for reducing the setback from the waterfront. If a case from its most recent meeting is any indication, asking for an arbitrary number of feet without having a site plan in place will meet with its disapproval.

David Cancialosi, who was representing the applicant for a variance request at 3201 Westlake Drive, came to the Nov. 8 meeting of the Board of Adjustment to request a “shoreline setback around an existing slough to accommodate a remodel and repair by replacement of the existing single-family residence.”

However, that description didn’t suffice for the board members.

“Either you’re pregnant or you’re not,” Board Member Michael Von Ohlen said. “Either you’re going to remodel and repair, or you’re going to replace.”

Generally, when an applicant requests a variance from the Board of Adjustment, he has an idea of his project and is able to specify why he requires a variance from the current code. Cancialosi, however, explained that his client was only able to stipulate that he wanted to move his home toward the center of the lot.

“They would like to lop off the left side of the house,” Cancialosi said. “They want to get it away from the setback (on the southern side) and they want to add to the right.”

With no sketches to illustrate the idea behind the proposal, the board members were unable to entertain the idea of approving a reduced setback from the man-made channel that cuts into the property from Lake Austin.

“There needs to be some sort of idea what the footprint is,” Chair William Burkhardt said. “If you’re asking for a carte blanche setback, you’re not going to get it.”

Cancialosi explained to the board that the reason he turned up empty-handed was that he was unable to convince his clients to spend money on architectural fees prior to being granted assurances that they would be allowed to reduce the setback requirement by any margin. Without a reduced setback, there is a minimal space in which they can move their home on the property due to the way it is platted.

Still, the board members commended Cancialosi’s willingness to compromise. He offered the board two options – one 5-foot setback and one 25-foot setback – to consider for the variance request. Currently, the setback from the channel is 75 feet.

Cancialosi also noted that setbacks from man-made channels are a new interpretation of the code. “When I was a planner for the city we never applied the setback to man-made channels on any of these lots,” he said.

Even with Cancialosi’s past experience as a city planner to add to his credibility, the board members were unwilling to grant his variance and unanimously postponed it until December when Cancialosi could return with a rough site plan. Board Member Melissa Hawthorne was absent.

Although the board had no idea what the project would look like, members were agreeable to his request for some setback. “I’m comfortable with something, but it’s not going to be five feet,” said Burkhardt.

Photo 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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