What an amazing day for the Second Annual Hyde Park Egg Scramble at Shipe Park! With a glorious clear sunny sky overhead and morning temperatures in the low 70s, we had a fabulous attendance of neighborhood families at this HPNA event. In its second year of what we hope will become an annual neighborhood tradition, the event wowed over 100 kids of the community with a fun-filled egg hunt. In the words of Adam Wilson, one of the Friends of Shipe Park, “It was an awesome, wonderful, lovely gathering in the sunshine at the park today! So great to see so many bright, smiling faces!”
After a quick welcome speech by HPNA co-president Lorre Weidlich, the egg hunt was kicked off by HPNA past president John Williams. First up were the littlest ones, ages 0 to 2. It was indeed a great photo opportunity for parents, with their toddlers dressed in their best outfits. Quick to follow were the 3 and 4 year olds, obviously experienced from previous years in picking up as many eggs as they can handle. And finally, the ages 5 and over group. This year, the “5 and ups” lined up and raced across the bridge to hunt eggs on the other side of the creek. Two lucky children found Free Play Passes inside golden eggs donated by Liza Wilson of Toybrary Austin. Afterwards, Lorre Weidlich remarked, “The egg scramble is a great community event. We need more events like it. They’re the glue that holds us together as a neighborhood.”
Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Grande Communications, popcorn, snow cones, and cotton candy were free for all attendees. While the little kids played inside the bouncy house, the older kids fought their way through the bouncy obstacle course. All of them cheered enthusiastically at the much-anticipated arrival of the Egg Scramble Bunny! Even though he is very busy this time of year, he took lots of pictures with kids in the photo booth, provided by Carolyn Grimes of Coldwell Banker United, Realtors. And what a long line for Jasper the balloon twister! Who knew this would be the most popular part of the festivities. It looked like Elsa and SpongeBob Squarepants were the most requested balloon figures! “It was absolutely perfect,” said neighbor Nancy Mims, “I loved getting to chat with neighbors and friends while the kids went bonkers. It was great! And the balloon guy was pure magic.”
Other sponsors for the event included Walgreens, Bounce Around Austin, and McKinney York Architects. Special recognition is due the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department and all the volunteers from It’s My Park! Day for keeping Shipe Park looking so beautiful and readying it for this event.
The success of this event would not have been possible without all of our volunteer: Summer Seibert, Ashleigh Brown, Phil Seibert, Adam Brunson, Jordan Schmid, Jenna Williamson, Glenda Ripley, Chandler Sager, Edward Harris, Debi Rivier-Harris, Alice From Hyde Park!, Krista Box, Brent Baker, Craig Mitchel, Jake Box, Faith Koehler, Michael Horowitz, Betsy Clubine, Rodney Gibbs, Maury Sullivan, Jose Cabada, Lorre Weidlich, David Conner, Vince Williams, Carmela Williams, Alicia Cabada-Luyet, and Joaquin Reynolds. Special thanks to Todd Pruner for providing the PA system and John Williams for compiling the music playlist.
And, finally, a thank you to all of our neighbors who came out for the event. We hope to see all of you and more at this event next year on Saturday April 4, 2015. Mark your calendars!
–Michelle Rossomando and Tim Luyet, Co-Chairs
The Pecan Press’s very own photo editor, Lizzie Chen, had the rare opportunity to assist former White House photographer David Hume Kennerly at the Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library on April 8-10th. Kennerly won a Pulitzer in 1972 in Feature Photograph for his Vietnam War portfolio. He has also photographed every American president since Richard Nixon.
At this event to mark the 50th year since President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, President Barack Obama was joined by former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
As Lizzie tells it, “What an experience this was! I definitely learned a lot from Kennerly and the team of LBJ photographers, including former White House photographer to George W. Bush, Eric Draper. As a photographer, I could not believe I would be editing the photos of photographers whom I admired so much. What I really took away from this experience is to shoot everything; you never know when you are capturing a moment that will become history.”
Besides assisting the White House photographers, Lizzie also had an opportunity to photograph a few of the speakers, including Dr. Bernice King, Martin Luther King’s daughter, Julian Bond, former chairman of the NAACP, and the Reverend Jesse Jackson. “It was truly an honor,” she says, “to stand in front of our civil rights leaders and activists who formed a pathway to equality in America. I am still decompressing from this historical event. On the other hand, as Lyndon Johnson said in 1968, ‘We have come some of the way, not near all of it. There is much left to do.’”
They read poetry on the Plaza
on very certain days
during the semester’s seasons
from September until May.
The readers’ words float upwards
from mouth into the sky
trying to catch an intense thought
or a curious slice of life.
For poetry is the distillation
of the moment when everything turns,
spiraling out to latch onto,
and then encase an idea’s germ.
But my little dawn of realization
on this day when the wind is fair:
is the Black Widows’ annual great migration,
on the spider webs in the air.
Their silvr’y strands glint in the sun
as they sail by overhead,
ensnaring the words and thoughts
of poets long thought dead.
Does she follow a twangy vibration,
moving stealthily in for the kill?
Only to find her incisive venom
no match for the writer’s quill?
Then flying away with purloined phrases
no wonder it’s so hard to hear,
I only catch snatches of faraway places
so I’m off to imbibe a beer.
- At UT HRC Plaza, Spring 2013 – E.S.Cuny
Far beneath the city lies a maze of catacombs,
where the wind courses round whispering over bones,
where mossy stacks of skulls that stare without sight
are revealed to wandering souls in the flickering light.
From somewhere overhead rumble Metro trains,
pushing musty air down their tunneled lanes.
The passengers are dressed in their winter blacks,
swaying silently in unison over staccato tracks.
Then they bustle up the stairs or take the escalators,
past Ukrainian klezmers and the Gypsy beggars,
but the crowd bursts out to an unaccustomed sight –
the overcast has given way, the sky is blue and bright!
Red and yellow flowers signal Springtime has arrived;
people doff their dreary coats – and Paris comes alive!
To Paris, with love – E.S.Cuny
Sad News To Report: Longtime Hyde Park resident Thelma Fox passed away on March 4, 2014. She was 96 years old. Her neighbors on Avenue H will remember her personal warmth, generous spirit, and great sense of humor. She was a member of the Church of Christ in Hyde Park, where for many years her husband served as an elder. Predeceased by her son Kenneth and her husband Vance, she is survived by her children Carolyn and Gerald Fox, granddaughter Heather, and daughter-in-law Sandra Kay Fox.
* * * * *
The Second Annual Ney Day: On Saturday May 3, noon to 5 p.m., The Elisabet Ney Museum will be celebrating the art and legacy of Elisabet Ney, with music, art, performances, and other activities. There will be live music from SeVana Marimba Band, Rosie Flores, Jennifer Cook, Yes Ma’am Brass Band, and Fiddlisa and Friends. Activities will include clay and limestone sculpting demos, food trucks, jugglers, hula hoopers, technology activities, clay crafting, and bookmaking. A highlight will be a spray-paint art performance. Attendees will also find booths from Austin Bookmakers Guild, The South Austin Museum of Popular Culture, The Museum of Natural and Artificial Ephemerata, Amy’s Ice Cream, Girlstart, Girls’ Rock Camp, UT Press, and the Asian American Resource Center. The event is presented with assistance from Texas Folklife and support from Texas Commission on the Arts. The Ney is at 304 E. 44th Street.
* * * * *
The Nightmare Continues: Newly armed with a resolution of support from the neighborhood association, Liz Lock and Eric Hughes, owners of the Adams House B&B, reported for their meeting with the Board of Adjustment on April 14, hoping to get relief from the hardship caused by the enforcement of a mid-construction stoppage of their renovation project. What they encountered instead was a postponement of the meeting because of yet another error made by the city, this time in regard to neighbor notification. As of press time, there was no clear path to a revised date for a hearing.
This nightmare began after a neighbor filed a complaint in January. In a subsequent internal review, city staff discovered it had made an error in the issued permit. It then ordered a halt to the construction of what was to be expanded living space for the owners. Months have passed, and the owners are beyond frustrated. See the minutes of the April HPNA meeting on p. 13 for more details.
* * * * *
Spotlight on a Neighbor: The April issue of Austin Woman Magazine features a cover story on Hyde Park resident Niyanta Spelman: “Global Conservationist: Keeping the Planet Green through the Rainforest Partnership.” This feature article details how her lifelong special connection with nature eventually led her to establish the Rainforest Partnership. With more than 300 volunteers, this partnership focuses exclusively on tropical rainforests, which are so ecologically important, but over the last 100 years have gone from 14% to 6% of the earth’s land mass. This partnership is trying to reverse that trend, taking pride in doing so in a way that respects the cultures of indigenous peoples and works with them to build sources of income that ensure economic sustainability.
* * * * *
Preventing Home Fires: A handy and useful guide to fire safety is available at http://www.homesecuritysystems.com/fire-safety-handbook. This online text includes a comprehensive look at fire risks, effective fireproofing methods, and ways to prepare oneself and others before a fire starts.
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
The following resolution will be presented, potentially amended, and voted upon at the June 2014 meeting of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association:
The Hyde Park Neighborhood Association resolves to send the following letter to City Council, the Board of Adjustment, the Planning Commission, the Historic Landmark Commission, the City Manager, the Historic Preservation Office, and the Planning and Zoning Department:
The membership of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association wishes to address several issues related to the improper permitting of an addition to the Adams House bed and breakfast.
The membership of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association is concerned and disappointed about the way the City of Austin mishandled the permitting of the Adams House Bed and Breakfast addition. The inability of the City of Austin Planning and Zoning Department to apply the standards clearly stated in City Code led to loss of time and money, confusion, and disagreement.
The HPNA supports the owners of the Adams House in their attempt to request redress from the City of Austin. However, the HPNA resents being put in the position of having to choose between our neighbors and our protections. Our support for corrective action is limited to this particular circumstance and should not be construed by the City of Austin as precedent setting.
As a result of numerous permitting errors observed over a period of years, we insist city zoning be applied correctly under any and all circumstances. Further, we expect the city to invest in additional resources and staff training and to renew its attention to detail in order to avoid such errors in the future. Hyde Park already provides an advisory body, a Development Review Committee, to assist with the development process. However, the final responsibility for correct permitting and code enforcement lies with the City of Austin, and we rely on the City to do it correctly.
It is our fervent hope that in the future the City will apply the Code as written, so that the protections it provides for our neighborhood, our NCCDs, our Local Historic District, and the McMansion ordinance, will never again be put into jeopardy, and property owners will not be subjected to stress and expense.
After its founding in 1890, Hyde Park went for more than eight decades without a neighborhood association. HPNA was formed in 1974 in the face of an existential threat from developers who wanted to tear down existing homes and put student apartments in their place.
Now that the neighborhood is secure, some say a new threat has arisen: unkempt property and problematic neighbors. An ad hoc committee has been formed at HPNA called Keep It Spiffy (KIS), whose goal would be to bring up the standards of Hyde Park properties, and deal decisively with such problems as incessantly barking dogs or garish house paint.
George Mareski, organizer of KIS, explained his thinking at the February meeting of the HPNA Long-Range Planning Committee. “I spent big bucks buying and remodeling and landscaping my house. Most of my neighbors have done the same. It just takes one person who lets his yard or his house go to pot to bring down the whole block. That’s not fair.”
What Mareski and his members seek is the transformation of the neighborhood association into a homeowners association (HOA). He said that such an association is governed by a neighborhood council. The group writes its own bylaws, determines fees and writes policies. “It’s totally democratic,” he said.
Some 80 HOAs already exist in Austin, including one at the new Mueller neighborhood. “An HOA might be a little scary to some; but once in, residents are so grateful to have that protection,” Mareski said.
In the case of an offending property whose owner refuses to correct the situation, an HOA might get bids on cleaning it up, have the work done, and send the bill to the owner. If the owner does not pay, the HOA can impose a mechanic’s lien on the property. In extreme cases, foreclosure is a possibility. “That’s the impressive thing about HOAs,” Mareski said. “They have the power to get things done.”
Committee member Katherine Goolsby said it was this very power that is terrifying. “I’ve lived in an HOA, and they can be tyrannical. They were coming around measuring the height of the grass. We lived in fear. It was North Korea without the starvation.”
She recalled the story from the fall of 2012 of the single mother whose son made a small crawl space in the boxwood hedge separating the driveways of the townhouses in Summerwod, a development off Steck. “He lined it with sticks and pieces of firewood and called it his ‘fort.’ You could scarcely see it from the street, even if you were looking for it,” recalled Goolsby.
But the HOA came down hard, demanding the sticks and firewood be removed or the mother would be charged to have it done. The mother decided to stick by her son. The case became a cause célèbre, picked up by UPI as well as the Austin American-Statesman. Goolsby said she visited the mother, who showed her a pack of mean-spirited letters left on her door step. “She was being bullied, plain and simple,” Goolsby said, noting the mother moved away as soon as she could.
This story touched off the most vitriolic exchange in the memory of most committee members. Epithets such as “snob,” “loser,” “fascist,” and “riff-raff” were exchanged freely until a halt in the discussion was called by committee chairman Forrest Gruben.
In the weeks since, a number of HOA supporters and an equal number of HOA opponents were interviewed. The idea was to discover the roots of this divisive issue. Although there are many exceptions, there did seem to be a difference in the two groups.
Most HOA opponents have lived in Hyde Park for more than 10 years. In general, they paid less for their houses than HOA supporters. They grew up in easygoing families with little or no corporal punishment. As adolescents, they said they generally kept sloppy rooms; in college they pursued degrees in the liberal arts or social sciences. Their motto for the neighborhood seems to be, “Live and let live.”
Most HOA supporters, on the other hand, have lived in the neighborhood a much shorter time, many less than five years. They grew up in relatively strict families. They reported that their rooms as adolescents were tidy; according to several, the tidiness alienated some of their peers. In college, a majority majored in business, especially accounting, finance and management. Their motto for Hyde Park seems to be, “The way of the transgressor is hard.”
Both groups seemed to have a goodly number of team players, which perhaps explains why Hyde Park functions as well as it does. HOA opponents tended to like dogs; supporters favored cats, although there were plenty of exceptions.
Kevin Duderstadt, a KIS supporter, said his group will make a presentation at the May meeting of HPNA. Several members of Austin HOAs will be available for questions. In the meantime, he and his group are canvassing residents. If there is interest, a KIS member makes a home visit. “The momentum is growing, it’s really there,” he said. “Once neighbors learn the details, they want in. I think we will have a majority of neighbors on board within 5-7 months.”
Since April 1983, the Lucero family has owned and operated what has become Hyde Park’s iconic restaurant, Julio’s. Starting in a small space on West Lynn in Clarksville, where Stella Salinas Lucero grew up, they moved the restaurant, shortly thereafter in 1985, to its current location at the corner of 43rd and Duval. Since then, they have been operating it as a family business, with Stella and her children Marisa and Julio working there almost every day. Some days, one or more of Stella’s sisters stops in for dinner, often stepping behind the cash register to help when it gets busy.
To celebrate their thirty-one years in business, Stella and her kids have decided to make April their “Julio’s 31st Anniversary Celebration” month. As longtime contributors to the Hyde Park community, they are going to donate a portion of the receipts of one night each week in April to the Lee Elementary School PTA to support the Spanish program that the PTA created.
Anyone who has ever been to Julio’s is struck by how many of the customers seem to know not only each other, but Stella, Marisa, and Julio personally. Customers come from all over town, many of them with their dogs. They often remark that almost the only time they get to see each other is at the restaurant. Many of those customers come from West Austin and have been loyal Julio’s patrons since the early 1980s.
Congratulations to Stella, Marisa, and Julio on the 31st anniversary of Julio’s. And, thanks for being a part of the fabric of Hyde Park for so long.
KUT in Austin recently reported that Councilmember Bill Spelman floated a trial balloon regarding affordable housing in Austin, “Tiny Apartments Could Be Big Answer to Austin’s Housing Crunch”. The Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan Contact Team has invited him to its meeting on April 28, to discuss the City of Austin’s infill tool, Secondary Apartment, as it pertains to affordable housing in Hyde Park.
Also invited to participate in this discussion is architect Michael Gatto, the executive director of the Austin Community Design and Development Center. He will share information about Austin’s Alley Flat Initiative. “Alley Flats” are small, detached residential units that may be accessed from Austin’s extensive network of underutilized alleyways. The long term objective of the initiative is to create an adaptive and self-perpetuating delivery system for sustainable and affordable housing.
The Contact Team is planning to explore the ramifications of applying these ideas throughout Hyde Park. It is no secret that Austin has the highest housing prices for an urban area in Texas (according to the Coldwell Banker Home Listing Report for 2013) and that Travis County has the highest rental rates in the state. As one of the most desirable addresses in Austin and Travis County, it’s easy to see why the goal of affordable housing in Hyde Park is almost impossible to attain.
However, housing affordability can dramatically affect people’s lives, especially those of us who already live here and are (or soon will be) retired. While the demographics of Hyde Park show that a majority of residents are now under the age of 35, a Brookings Institution analysis of 2010 census data showed that between 2000 and 2010 the Austin-Round Rock metro area had the fastest growing ‘pre-senior’ population (ages 55-64) in the nation and ranked second in senior (ages 65 and above) population growth over the same time period. This statistic led Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell to create a task force to address the ways Austin can respond to the growing and changing needs of seniors. In his 2012 State of the City address, Mayor Leffingwell said “The rapid growth of our older population demonstrates that Austin is a very desirable place to age, and this population has quickly become one of our community’s most important issues.”
The mayor’s statement is especially apt for neighborhoods like Hyde Park. According to the AARP document, Beyond 50.05: A Report to the Nation on Livable Communities Creating Environments for Successful Aging, “A livable community is one that has affordable and appropriate housing, supportive community features and services, and adequate mobility options, which together facilitate personal independence and the engagement of residents in civic and social life.” That sounds like Hyde Park, except for the affordable part.
The majority of us want to continue to live in our own homes for as long as possible. However, rising property taxes and utility costs make this difficult on a fixed income. As pointed out in my article in the January 2014 issue of the Pecan Press, “Infill and Super Duplexes: A New Proposal”, adding a small rental unit to a residential lot can make that residence affordable for the owner, while also providing an affordable place to live for a new resident. A one-bedroom apartment that brings in the average rental income in Austin is equivalent to having over $400,000 in the bond market at current rates. Moreover, apartment income will likely keep pace with inflation.
Unfortunately, many lots in Hyde Park are prohibited from adding a garage apartment, secondary apartment or alley flat due to the minimum size restrictions (7000 sq. ft. for most building lots) in the zoning code. Again, as discussed in my Pecan Press article, the City of Austin now has a portfolio of infill tools that encourages neighborhoods like Hyde Park to adopt more liberal zoning regulations. The infill tool, Secondary Apartment, in the City’s Infill Tools and Design Booklet specifically permits secondary apartments on small lots (5750 sq. ft.).
The upcoming Contact Team meeting on April 28 to discuss this topic should prove to be informative and thought-provoking. As usual, it will take place at Trinity United Methodist Church at 7:00 p.m. All who are interested in this and other Contact Team issues are encouraged to attend. In accord with the new bylaws, attendance at a meeting ensures voting privileges for the next nine months.
Fun with Eggs and an Easter Bunny: The Second Annual Hyde Park Egg Scramble at Shipe Park is Saturday April 19, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. This HPNA event, sponsored by Grande Communications, is open and free to everyone in the neighborhood. There will be popcorn, snow cones, and cotton candy along with fun activities including egg hunts, a balloon twister, a bounce house and obstacle course. A photo booth, provided by Carolyn Grimes of Coldwell Banker United, Realtors, will also be there for pictures with the Easter Bunny!
If you plan to participate, remember to drop off one dozen plastic eggs filled with age-appropriate treats between April 12 and April 18 in bins marked by age group on the front porch of the following houses: 4307 Avenue F or 4809 Eilers Avenue. The egg hunt will be divided into the following three age groups: under 3 years old, 3 and 4 year olds, and 5 years old and up. See you there!–Michelle Rossomando and Tim Luyet, event co-chairs.
* * * * *
Hyde Park Contact Team: Its quarterly meeting will be held on Monday April 28 at Trinity United Methodist Church, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. Residents, tenants, property owners, and business owners in Hyde Park are encouraged to attend. The HPCT is charged with the implementation of and any change to the city-adopted Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan.
The agenda includes
- Affordability through Secondary Infill Options, with invited guests Councilmember Bill Spelman and architect Michael Gatto.
* * * * *
New at the Ney: On Sunday April 13 at 2:00 p.m., Austin author Carolyn Osborn will read from her latest novel Contrary People. With the Elisabet Ney Museum prominently featured as both location and metaphor, the story unfolds in the late 1960s in Austin and features twin themes of re-emergence and transformation. Books will be available for signing by the author.
Also, Ney Day will be on Saturday May 3. Like last year, it will feature live music, activities, food trucks, crafts, animals and more! For information, visit The Elisabet Ney Museum or call 512-458-2255.
* * * * *
CodeNEXT: The City of Austin continues to engage in a process to rewrite the City’s Land Development Code (LDC), which determines how land can be used throughout the city—including what can be built, where it can be built, and how much can (and cannot) be built. Meanwhile, the Executive Committee of Austin Neighborhoods Council (ANC) has adopted a resolution calling for changes to the LDC revision process and its timeline. This LDC resolution may be viewed on the Resolutions page of the ANC website .
* * * * *
A Big Thank You: The Pecan Press relies on a network of volunteers to deliver it to homes in Hyde Park, month after month. This network starts with overall coordinator Rimas Remeza and ends with those who distribute on individual blocks. With this issue, we welcome two new area coordinators: Heidi Bojes and Kevin Heyburn. We think it a good thing to take time every so often to acknowledge the vital service this network of distributors provides.
Because of weather and other factors, residents on certain blocks received their March issue late. Unfortunately we won’t always reach distribution goals, but typically residents will receive their copy on the weekend preceding each monthly HPNA meeting. And thanks to Michael Crider, the new issue will be posted online at the HPNA website on the Thursday immediately preceding the meeting.
When Jeff and Katie Bullard bought their Hyde Park house at 4210 Avenue G, they already knew all the positive and negative aspects of owning an old house. They were veterans of two historic landmarks, the most recent in Judge’s Hill. But this old house on Avenue G had an advantage that didn’t exist for the previous two: a city ordinance that offered tax abatements for the restoration of contributing and potentially contributing properties in local historic districts.
Adopted by the City of Austin in 2012, this program helps owners restore contributing structures or bring potentially contributing structures back to contributing status by providing a property tax abatement to owners whose restoration costs are at least 25% of the pre-restoration value of the property. Its purpose, according to the City of Austin, is “to encourage preservation and maintenance of the architectural character of local historic districts.” The program abates 100% of the city property taxes assessed on the value added to a property as a result of the restoration project. The abatement lasts for seven years. Commercial properties are also eligible for the program, but their restoration requires an expenditure of 40% of pre-restoration value and their tax abatement lasts for 10 years.
Jeff and Katie’s house on Avenue G, while in good condition, had not been touched since the 1970s. The tax abatement program enabled them to add a second floor while retaining three-fourths of the original structure. As the owner of Avenue B Development, Jeff was accomplished at historic restorations. When he learned about the tax abatement program through a Preservation Austin seminar, the stage was set for his Hyde Park venture.
To participate in the program, an owner must apply to the Historic Landmark Commission before beginning the restoration. All work must comply with the Local Historic District Preservation Plan and Design Standards. After the Historic Landmark Commission approves the application, the owner has two years to complete the project. The City of Austin Historic Preservation Officer performs a final inspection to approve the work before initiating the tax abatement.
Eligible expenses include the demolition of non-historic exterior additions and the repair, restoration, or replacement of the historic façade and landscape features, including the reconstruction of missing features. In keeping with modern environmental concerns, it also includes sustainability features such as solar panels.
The Bullards were the first owners to take advantage of the tax abatement program in the Hyde Park Local Historic District. While they celebrate their “new” home, Hyde Park can appreciate another tool that favors restored single family homes over demolitions and new construction.