Board of Adjustment raises renovation cap in Rosedale

Generally speaking, Austin’s Board of Adjustment isn’t wild about granting variances from the Land Development Code to those who have bought their way into a preexisting situation.

Luckily for one family in the Rosedale neighborhood, that’s not always the case; on Oct. 12, the board unanimously voted in support of a variance to allow the homeowners to renovate the home they purchased in 2016.

Harmony Grogan, the applicant’s agent, told the board that the 947-square-foot house at 2202 W. 49th St. is in need of repairs and a bigger kitchen. Though all of the proposed improvements meet current code in terms of things like impervious cover and size, because the 5,052-square-foot lot is under the standard size and because the property was subdivided after 1946, all improvements to the home are restricted to 20 percent of its current value, as determined by the Travis Central Appraisal District.

That means all improvements for this home are capped at $13,996 – a restriction, Grogan explained, that makes it difficult to remodel the home and impossible to build an addition.

“We think preventing the owners from expanding their kitchen or adding a bath is not a reasonable use of this property. No one wants to see this home fall into disrepair or sit vacant due to these code limitations,” Grogan said.

“They didn’t know this about the house. And to be honest, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on code, but I didn’t know this,” she added. “This isn’t something they could have found out in research on their own.”

Board Member William Hodge said he had run into this issue himself during his work as an architect. He noted that the prohibition on spending is limited to permitted projects, not cosmetic ones like painting, tiling and trim.

Though Hodge proposed a friendly amendment that would raise the allowable amount for improvements to $200,000, and other board members seemed amenable, the board could not grant more than the amount on the posted agenda.

Hodge noted that, in general, it isn’t likely someone can expect to be granted a variance so soon after buying a home. But in this case, the quirky law that applies to non-conforming structures was an exception to the rule.

“To me, this is a completely reasonable ask,” he said.

Rendering courtesy of the city of Austin.

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