Building a Neighborhood

Bryker Woods is truly a great neighborhood.  We have great tree lined streets, wonderful food &  retail within walking distance and a thriving historic elementary school.  The trees are fabulous and the front porches connect us to coincidental passers-by.  Most of these features predate the current homeowners in Bryker Woods although we do have a few original owners in our midst.

As current owners in Bryker Woods we act as stewards of our neighborhood.  We also look after the interests of our family.  Kids grow up, home workspace needs change and tv’s have gotten bigger.  The needs and wants  of our families combined with our desire to stay in Bryker Woods often leaves us with one option:  REMODEL !!

The construction process in Bryker Woods is not the same as every other neighborhood in Austin or the country.  We are part of a National Register Historic District formed to help protect the character of our neighborhood and prevent large scale change.  Thus the remodeling process in Bryker Woods has a few additional layers. These layers are procedures set up to ensure that owners and builders preserve the character of the neighborhood that attracts us all to Bryker Woods in the first place.

All projects must go through a City of Austin permit review process which can seem quite arbitrary and cumbersome to the first-time applicant.  This is largely due to the fact the various protective ordinances were developed over many years and are not all handled by the same City departments.

City of Austin review begins at the Building Permit Department.  This trip to the over taxed office can be quite frustrating as owners are often told that the historical status of their home or the size of the trees on their lot will place additional requirements on their project.  Depending on the size and location of the proposed remodel, building permit applicants will require to pass reviews including:

1.  Historic District Contributors status
2.  Historic Landmark Commission
3.  Heritage tree status and Tree Ordinance compliance
4.  McMansion height limit review and building tent compliance
5.  Building area compliance and Impervious cover compliance.
6.  Utility and infrastructure compliance
7.  Sidewalk or connectivity requirements

A properly drawn site plan showing trees and dimensions ( sample available online at City of Austin ) and clear façade drawings of your proposal are required for most of the reviews.  There is also specific size and height information that the City will require regarding building envelope parameters that must also be part of your package.

The good news is that there are a number of Board Members on the Bryker Woods Neighborhood Association (BWNA) who have been through this process first or currently work within this arena.  Feel free to contact a member of the Historic Review Committee or any board member for advice.

Ultimately, many of the approvals required before getting a City of Austin building permit will pass before the BWNA for comment and it behooves everyone to have a discussion together before project momentum becomes overwhelming.  By having a neighborly conversation at the project onset, we can preserve the neighborhood we chose to live within.

Drawings submitted for BWNA Board review should be a printed full size set submitted to Jeff Ersig.  Additionally, the BWNA Historic Review Committee is willing to review any preliminary drawing or design idea at any time during the design process.  This preliminary design reviews are best handled with a face to face meeting which can be arranged by contacting Bill, Jeff or Greg.

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