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Austin City Council Changes Demolition Regulations

Permits for civic buildings more than 50 years old must go through public hearing

The complicated landscape of historic building demolition in Austin just got a little bit thornier. City leaders, residents, and land-owners have been clashing incessantly of late over the fact that demolition permits for properties that are more than 50 years old must be reviewed by the city Historic Landmark Commission or its staff before being released.

Those who generally agree with the current process tend to value preserving the city’s physical—and thus cultural—history, while property-rights advocates bristle and New Urbanists complain that such preservation can impede increasing housing density, and thus availability, especially in the city’s central core areas.

At last week’s meeting, the Austin Monitor reported Tuesday, Austin City Council listed even further to the preservation side when it approved a resolution to require demolition permits for civic buildings go through a public hearing process. While such permits must be reviewed by staff, until now there was no requirement that they be approved by the Landmark Commission at a hearing.

Council voted 9-2 to approve the resolution, put forth by Council member Kathie Tovo, the Monitor reported. Council members Don Zimmerman and Ellen Troxclair voted in opposition, and Zimmerman put in his two cents confirming his staunch advocacy of property rights, according to the Monitor story.

Council member Sheri Gallo attempted an amendment that would not include all the buildings that fall in one of the current 46 categories of civic uses, reported the Monitor, but that amendment failed. In her opposition, Tovo expressed concern about historic civic buildings that are not landmarked, and held that modifying the list should go through the code development process. Jerry Rusthoven of the Planning and Zoning Department said that it would be sending just such a list through the normal boards and commissions vetting process, the Monitor added.

Council moves to change demolition rules [Austin Monitor]