HPNA Meeting Minutes: April 7, 2014

Kevin Heyburn, co-president of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association, called the April meeting to order at 7:12 p.m.

The first item of business was consideration of a resolution pertaining to the request by the Adams House Bed & Breakfast for a variance to floor to area ratio (FAR). The proprietors, Liz Lock and Eric Hughes, provided a summary of their current hardship resulting from the City of Austin Zoning Commission placing a stop work order during mid-construction on their approved expansion of owner living quarters.

The plans for the addition were submitted to and originally approved by the city in error (identifying the property as commercial instead of residential). Once the error was discovered, the city placed a stop work on the building permit. Months have now passed, and the city has referred Liz and Eric to the Board of Adjustment to petition for a variance to the residential FAR limit of .40.

Liz and Eric reviewed the history of the house from its decrepit, near demolition state in 1997 to the current restoration as a charming bed and breakfast on 43rd Street near Quack’s Bakery. The Adams House is one of only three bed & breakfasts operating in Hyde Park and has earned honors the last two years from The Austin Chronicle for best B&B.

Eric and Liz requested a resolution of support from the neighborhood. The building expansion would add about 300 sq. ft. to the second floor above a current secondary structure on the property. The additional space would not be available for rental and would be used solely for the owner’s personal living quarters. A proposed resolution read, “The Hyde Park Neighborhood Association is unopposed to the Adams House’s specific request for a variance and recognizes that the Adams House is a valued member of our community. We request that the Board of Adjustment consider this lot as it is now with the permitted development.”

During the discussion, a number of members raised concerns about setting a precedent for other FAR variance requests. The following amendments were proposed: (1) change “is unopposed to” to “supports” (which passed 20 – 18) and (2) add “originally approved” before “permitted development” (which passed 31 – 3, with 5 abstentions). The final resolution passed by a vote of 29 – 3 with 3 abstentions.

The final resolution thus read as follows: The Hyde Park Neighborhood Association supports the Adams House’s specific request for a variance and recognizes that the Adams House is a valued member of our community. We request that the Board of Adjustment consider this lot as it is now with the originally approved permitted development.

Next on the agenda, Leslie Libby from Austin Energy (AE) discussed a new program offering community solar to customers who would like to fund alternative energy but are unable or unwilling to install solar panels on their homes or dwellings. The first local solar photovoltaic project will be developed near the Austin Energy Kingsberry substation and provide AE customers with the opportunity to receive the benefits of solar energy without the capital costs associated with owning a solar panel system. Participating customers would pay a monthly premium on their electric bill which would cover the cost to AE of providing solar power generation. A variety of subscription levels may be offered ranging from 25% – 100% of monthly consumption and subscribers would be able to leave the program at any time or take the solar service with them if moving to a new home within AE’s service area.   The community solar program will be offered to Austin Energy customers within the next year.

Larry Gilg provided an update on the Imagine Austin CodeNEXT project that will rewrite the Austin Land Development Code (LDC) over the next few years. Hyde Park completed two working sessions for the “Community Character in a Box” task. Area residents met and discussed neighborhood assets, opportunities, and constraints. The results were mapped and documented and will be submitted with area photos to the Imagine Austin team.

Ellie Hanlon provided a summary of the Occupancy Limits ordinance that passed City Council by a vote of 6 -1, with Bill Spelman dissenting. The new law prohibits more than 4 unrelated adults from living together in a single family zoned property. A two year expiration was placed on the law and properties with structures built before April 2014 will be grandfathered unless there is new construction that adds more than 69 sq. ft.

There were 3 announcements: the Steering Committee meeting will move from April 14 to April 21, the next Contact Team meeting is April 28, and the general HPNA meeting on May 5 will host Kathie Tovo and Chris Riley, District 9 City Council member candidates.

With no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 9:32 p.m.

–Submitted by Artie Gold & Adrian Skinner

HPNA Co-Secretaries