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Friday, March 22, 2019 by Jessi Devenyns

BoA grants boat dock variance, swayed by trees

After being denied a variance to reconstruct an existing dock to 44 feet instead of the code-compliant 30 feet, the case of 1515 Manana St. returned before the Board of Adjustment at its March 11 meeting.

Based on a “substantial” amount of new information that Board Member Michael Von Ohlen noted was “critical to the decision,” the board members agreed to reopen the case.

Originally, the case for the boat dock extension was built on the fact that the current structure, which is 50 feet long, had existed without issue since 1980 and was only marginally longer than what would be necessary to safely dock a boat in the shallow water surrounding the property.

Nevertheless, at the last hearing when the other board members looked at the docks of the surrounding properties, this dock stood out.

At the most recent presentation, David Cancialosi, the president and owner of Permit Partners who was representing the homeowner on the case, noted that the length of their dock was not abnormal. “Even some of the sites right next to us have docks that appear to jut out further than the 30-foot allowance from the shoreline,” he said.

Additionally, he pointed to the docks attached to properties along nearby Scenic Drive, which he stated jut “way further” out than the allowable 30 feet, yet were approved by the Parks and Recreation Board back not so long ago when the parks board was the entity that approved docks.

Cancialosi also brought the board members’ attention to the fact that truncating the length of the dock would require a new bulkhead along the shoreline for wave mitigation. However, with 300 diameter inches of heritage trees along the shore, he pointed out that building a new wall in that location, inside the critical root zone of the trees, would constitute a code violation.

This reality, coupled with the fact that the homeowner is planning to construct a beach to further assist with wave mitigation, prompted Cancialosi to conclude, “There’s virtually no other location to put the dock.”

He said the alternative to receiving a boat dock variance from the Board of Adjustment would be to dredge around 40 cubic yards of silt from the area in order to allow a boat to reach a code-compliant, 30-foot dock. Due to the environmental damage that dredging causes, the city tries to discourage this approach.

Cancialosi reminded the board that in addition to preventing more dredging along Lake Austin, the proposed plan allows for “a reduced-size dock, a compliant bulkhead and a beach, all of which help with wave abatement and mitigation.”

Agreeing that there was a hardship associated with the property that required the dock to be longer than 30 feet, the Board of Adjustment unanimously approved the variance to extend the dock to no longer than 44 feet. Board members Rahm McDaniel, Christopher Covo and Brooke Bailey were absent.

Photo courtesy of the city of Austin.

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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.

City of Austin Heritage Tree Ordinance: The city ordinance that prohibits the unlicensed destruction of trees greater than 19 inches in diameter.

Lake Austin: Lake Austin is a water reservoir on the Colorado River, and the source of Austin's drinking water. It was created by the 1939 construction of the Tom Miller Dam and is managed by the Lower Colorado River Authority.

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