The City of Austin

28 October 2009 in Uncategorized

I had the pleasure of spending a fair amount of quality time at the City of Austin Permit center yesterday and today.  What an easy to navigate system.  I only had to spend a couple of hours waiting to see a planning reviewer.  But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.  First I had a visit about my electrical needs form, at the ONE STOP SHOP.  This sets the tone for all dealings with the city.  They have the audacity to advertise their ONE STOP SHOP for permits.  To get a residential building permit I must visit at least three different floors (signing in and waiting on each one) and possibly, like today, another building down the street.  That does not even include the trip to the county tax office for a tax certificate and possibly to the county court house if they deem your lot illegal. (never mind that is has been sold multiple times and “illegal” since the 1930″s.)

Thank goodness they upgraded to the ONE STOP SHOP.

The permit I needed was to convert an existing garage to living space and add a carport.  All single story and in total, less then 20% of the lot.  Did I leave with a permit?  Not for another three weeks.  Why?  Because the house is NEAR a flood plain.  Not IN it.  But less then 125 ft from the 100 year flood plain.  Wait, not even the house but the property is too close.  Never mind the roughly 25 vertical feet the water would have to rise to see the house.  When we get that kind of rain, issues like the Capitol floating away will take precedent over if the city erred in letting you build a carport.

It doesn’t end there.  I have to get a variance to build the last 10 feet of the carport because the garage was built into the current rear setback ( ten feet now, five feet when it was built).  That is understandable, they change the rules over time.  The catch is that for the all the City of Austin, the Board of Adjustments takes 16 cases a month.  That seems totally reasonable for a city of close to a million people and based on my wait at the permit office there is not much building going on.  Or it could be that the next available time for me to ask for the variance is in TWO MONTHS.  And I was lucky to get that spot.

Hopefully I will only have to visit the city two more times to complete this permit.  I am sure they will have the process smoothed out by the next job.  Or not.  Or maybe I’ll just find a different career.

The rant is over.  More on the Meriden house progress soon.

28 October 2009 Uncategorized

2 Comments to The City of Austin

  1. dude, i totally understand your frustration. you are right-on with this city’s rediculous permit process. it’s amazing anything gets built. at least the city gives architects something more to justify their expertise.

  2. Nick Mehl on 1 December 2009
  3. The Statesman article led me to your website. I am almost finished building a five-star green house and LOVE the ingenuity of saving the old house by “adding on” below it. Anyway, what you wrote about your permit experience was dead-on. Apart from the Board of Adjustment (which I didn’t have to deal with), the rest described my experience perfectly — waiting two hours to meet with Darren Cain, flood plain review for simply being able to see the flood plain from my house, all of the elevator rides,…. Thanks for your humorous take on the ONE STOP SHOP.

  4. Devon on 20 June 2010

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