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#1 2009-10-14 01:42:41

From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,201

The car culture can't sway the city's Board of Adjustments

I recently bought a house and then discovered that, according to City code, the lot is too small and the garage is too close to the property line.  So I had to go before the Board of Adjustments and ask for a "variance" for these two issues, which they approved.  (I think the deciding factors were that the City approved the lot size when the house was built in 1956, and the garage has been there since 1982, and that was way prior to my purchase.)

But  what was interesting to me was that for three hours while I waited my turn, I watched other citizens ask for variances for their own properties.  A huge chunk of the requests were to allow carports to be built or to remain, and some of the commissioners mentioned how carport-heavy their docket was.  The decisions were that the commission certainly didn't rubber-stamp the carports, and in fact rejected many, perhaps most of them.  One thing required in the variance application is that the citizen has to prove a "hardship", but the commission wasn't buying that lack of covered parking constitutes one.

When it was finally my turn, I opened by joking, "I appreciate the opportunity to address the Board of Carport Exceptions".  That got a laugh.  After explaining my case, I closed by saying that the hardship for me is not that I wouldn't have covered parking, because I don't believe anyone has a god-given right to covered parking.  The commissioners welcome that warmly, and one commissioner even applauded silently.  I continued by saying that the hardship for me was not lack of covered parking, but that if the garage wasn't approved, I'd have to radically remodel the structure of the house, at considerable expense.

Again, they approved my request, but I'm posting about this because I was really struck by this chink in the armor of the car culture.  When we had the battle on Shoal Creek about parking in bike lanes, some of the neighbors were adamant that they had a god-given right to park their vehicle wherever they wanted, including right in the bike lane, and the City unfortunately agreed.  But at the Board of Adjustments, the City is telling citizens that they can't expect to install a carport on their property just to get covered parking.  That's just awesome.


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