Tuesday, April 16, 2019 by Jessi Devenyns

Board of Adjustment grants unpermitted carport permission to stay parked

After a bitter neighborhood battle took place last month over a carport, the owner of the unpermitted car shelter was given a verdict to take down the structure that had stood for 16 years.

However, the owner gave it one more fighting chance, presenting the Board of Adjustment with new evidence at its April 8 meeting.

“We took the feedback from last time very seriously,” said Josh Westheimer, the owner of 1802 Cloverleaf Drive, referring to the board’s suggestion to investigate replacing the carport by extending the existing garage to an appropriate length for modern-day vehicles. Both board members and Westheimer agreed that acceptable dimensions for a usable garage are 20 feet wide by 20 feet long. Currently, the property has a garage that is 18 feet wide and just over 15 feet long.

Photo evidence at the hearing showed the family’s cars hanging out of the garage and squeezed in too narrowly to allow an adult to comfortably exit the vehicle, especially if he or she was carrying a child’s car seat. (The Westheimers have welcomed a new member of the family.)

Following the board’s advice at the last hearing, Westheimer explained that he had requested bids to extend the garage that sits in front of the carport. The bids ranged from $14,500 for construction and materials only to $54,000 for all the nitty-gritty details, including permit pulling.

Although a high price to bring his property back into code compliance, not all board members were sympathetic.

“It’s not an entitlement to have a full, two-car covered parking area,” said Chair William Burkhardt, who pointed out that the Westheimers had purchased an older home that would logically have a garage of an appropriate size for vehicles of a bygone era.

Board Member Darryl Pruett took a similar stance, saying that he interpreted this variance request somewhere along the lines of “Give me this variance because this garage … isn’t what would be built today under new construction.” He said that did not qualify as a hardship.

While Board Member Melissa Hawthorne agreed that historically only a small garage would have been needed, she pointed out that in both eras, the lot was an odd pie shape that prevented the garage from being widened to the west. Nor could the garage be expanded to the east as the house is attached. Additionally, part of the house on one side spills over into the city setback.

“I think that there might be some hardship here,” she said.

Furthermore, she noted that the carport had stood peacefully out in front of the house since 2003, and was only called into question after the construction of an ADU in the Westheimers’ backyard sparked a dispute with a neighbor that resulted in a call to code compliance.

Even today, the carport has widespread neighborhood support.

“We have 93 percent of our 300-foot neighbors supporting us,” Westheimer noted, referring to his closest neighbors.

With this evidence of new hardship, the board approved the variance to retain the carport. Pruett and Board Member Don Leighton-Burwell voted against the motion. Board members Rahm McDaniel and Kelly Bloom were absent.

Hawthorne admonished Westheimer as he was leaving to always to remember to pull a permit in the future.

Westheimer admitted that the decision had been a youthful folly. “I won’t be back,” he promised.

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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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