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Board of Adjustment fee assistance moves forward

Friday, October 22, 2021 by Kali Bramble

At last Thursday’s meeting, City Council unanimously approved a resolution designed to alleviate economic barriers to participating in the Board of Adjustment process.

The resolution, sponsored by Mayor Pro-Tem Natasha Harper-Madison, outlines the development of a BoA applicant assistance program that would waive application fees for those meeting a certain criteria for financial hardship.

Currently, those seeking variances from the Land Development Code for homestead properties are charged $822-$1,084 before their cases will be evaluated by the board, and an appeal can cost more than $2,600.

As a result, many low-income households are systematically excluded from the process.

Under the proposed program, applicants who receive federal or local benefits from programs like CHIP or MAP, or whose household income is less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level will be eligible to have Board of Adjustment fees partially or fully waived by the city. 

The Board of Adjustment has been working through the details of the program for several years, modeling it after Austin Energy and Austin Water’s customer assistance programs.

Previous drafts of the resolution have suggested financing the program through a small increase in commercial Board of Adjustment application fees, which the city would set aside in a designated fund. At the end of each fiscal year, any remaining funds of up to $1,000 would roll over into the pool for the following year. Any additional funds would be allocated to various city beautification projects.

Now that the resolution has moved through Council, City Manager Spencer Cronk will be responsible for investigating the model’s feasibility and other potential funding sources. The resolution also asks him to explore partnerships with organizations and law firms to provide legal assistance for the program’s beneficiaries. 

The city manager will return to Council with a formal recommendation on these matters before mid-February of next year. 

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