Tuesday, September 16, 2014

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Austin

Neighbors fear threat to city's 'McMansion ordinance'

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TWC News: Neighbors fear threat to city's 'McMansion ordinance'
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Austin city leaders say the city’s so-called McMansion ordinance is one of the strongest on the books, but just how effective is it at limiting the size of homes in the heart of the city?

City Council passed the ordinance in 2006 to preserve the character of most Central Austin neighborhoods. The code limits the height and size of homes to 40 percent of the lot.

"All the neighborhoods inside this very large area of Austin were feeling the pressure of incompatible development and seeing it," Council Member Laura Morrison said.

Morrison was head of the Austin Neighborhoods Council at the time. She said each part of town had its own set of issues.

Specifically in Hyde Park, just north of campus, two-bedroom one-bathroom houses were being razed to build much larger, dorm-like dwellings.

The McMansion Ordinance did not cover the Southwood Neighborhood—located south of Ben White Boulevard in South Austin—until 2009. Many neighbors worry several projects in the area could come back to life because of the Council's decision to repeal rules which force developers to reapply for permits if a project sat idle too long.

Projects that were denied after 2009 could now be considered grandfathered and move forward with construction.

"That is a huge concern to us because that means that pretty much anybody can do anything," Missy Bledsoe with the Southwood Neighborhood Association said.

Bledsoe says she's seen the benefits of the McMansion Ordinance.

"They have to go through some kind of a design process,” she said. There's nothing wrong with that."

Council member Morrison says the McMansion Ordinance also creates a tent-like effect for new construction, keeping new houses from looming over neighbors' properties.

City leaders say they will not know the impact of repealing its rules for idle projects for several more weeks.

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