Monday, October 28, 2019 by Jessi Devenyns

Lake setbacks threaten construction of family home in West Lake

Paris Schindler, owner of the lot at 1901 Westlake Drive, came to the Board of Adjustment seeking a variance to construct a 6,354-square-foot family home.

While normally a 2.26-acre property would easily accommodate such a structure, 44,000 square feet of the lot is within the Lake Austin setback and much of the property ascends a steep slope, making only 1.25 acres of the land available to build on. A substantial portion of the buildable area is covered by tennis courts and driveway, which further limits construction.

Despite that, when Board Member Yasmine Smith asked directly how large a house could fit without a variance from the code, Stephen Tarver, the architect on the project, responded: “Not much smaller.”

In order to achieve the full square footage of the current two-story home design, David Cancialosi, who was representing Schindler, requested a variance at the board’s Oct. 14 meeting. The request was to reduce the shoreline setback from 75 feet to 25 feet and increase the allowable impervious cover on the property.

“I know you’re limited on what you can do here,” Board Member Michael Von Ohlen said. However, he explained that he had concerns with increasing impervious cover, especially since “that house will almost fit where the tennis courts are.”

Schindler told the Austin Monitor that the tennis courts could not be converted into the foundation area for a home because there are three protected cedar trees whose root zones encroach upon the building zone.

Schindler’s family has owned the property since 1963 and there has never been a home constructed on the lot. Today the lot contains a boat dock, a dilapidated tennis court and a multitude of driveways.

Other board members expressed concern about the number of driveways snaking across the property and the amount of impervious cover that they generate. One of the driveways is shared by the property owners next door, which board members said is an unfair burden if Schindler is saddled with the responsibility of carrying the increased impervious cover that directly benefits the neighbors.

Board members asked to see a view of the adjacent lot to better understand how the impervious cover associated with the driveway was distributed across the lots. They also asked for confirmation on whether or not there was a legal mechanism mandating that the driveway provide access to the neighboring properties.

Smith went further to suggest “maybe some out-of-the-box thinking about a) what is reasonable; and b) how we can fit that within our rules.” As the current plans are presented, she said, “I am not a super-huge fan of saying there is no reasonable use because you don’t get to build your 6,500-square-foot home.”

The uncertainty surrounding the driveways prompted the board to unanimously postpone the case for further information.

Schindler told the Monitor that in order to construct a home large enough so his entire family can come to stay with him, he is willing to wait and work within the system.

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.

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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