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Dock variance fails for a second time at the Board of Adjustment

Wednesday, August 14, 2019 by Jessi Devenyns

After the Board of Adjustment denied a variance request to extend the width of a dock into the interior setback of a Lake Austin lot and reduce the interior setback to 0 feet, the homeowners returned in August for a reconsideration.

Alex Tynberg, the owner of the property at 2710 Scenic Drive, told the board members that “we have a very unique site and specific set of conditions” that made the encroachment into the setback necessary, but in the spirit of compromise he would only ask for three additional feet to the 16.5-foot dock. This would allow for a 4-foot setback from the neighboring property, which is the distance the two parties agreed on.

Documentation shows that Tynberg’s neighbor was amenable to a 4-foot setback since the case first came before the board.

Despite the gesture of compromise, and an arborist’s report saying that this particular configuration would preserve the critical root zone of two protected trees, the Board of Adjustment once again denied the variance request.

“This hardship is coming about because you want to expand what’s there,” said Board Member Darryl Pruett.

Tynberg pointed out that code allows for a dock to be the width of 20 percent of a property’s shoreline, which in this case is 24.5 feet wide. With the additional 3-foot extension he was asking for, his dock would only be 19.5 feet wide.

Even with code stating the property owner’s entitlement to such width, Pruett said, “I don’t necessarily see this as a hardship that allows you to move the location of the dock in the setback area.”

He noted that as an alternative to widening the slip, the dock could technically be moved between the two protected trees on the property.

A 44-inch cypress and a 23-inch cypress are to the north of the dock. With a dock that is already 16 feet wide, Tynberg said moving it along the shoreline would only shrink the size that he could build. He explained that the distance between the critical root zones is only 10 feet, 8 inches and that beyond shrinking the dock, he was concerned about cutting into the critical root zone and potentially damaging the trees.

Furthermore, he said constructing a dock in that location would necessitate going over the code-approved 4 feet of cut-and-fill and would require an environmental variance.

Another solution to this space restriction would be to bump the dock out into the channel and construct it away from the shoreline. However, directly across from the property on the other side of a 70-foot channel there’s an island that makes that an untenable solution.

Board Member Melissa Hawthorne said the fact that the island creates a shallow channel and limits maneuverability is a “distinct hardship” and the linchpin in this variance request.

To support the request, she made a motion to approve the variance. While the majority of the board members agreed with her reasoning, Pruett, Yasmine Smith and William Hodge voted against the motion, causing it to fail. Board members Ada Corral and Michael Von Ohlen were absent.

Rendering courtesy of the city of Austin.

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