House_rebuild_001submitted by Tom Linehan [Email address: tlinehan #AT# austin.rr.com - replace #AT# with @ ]

Below is an email sent by Geoff  Mueller to the neighborhood leadership, the Austin Chronicle, the City’s permit department, and anyone else who might listen on Thursday, July 26. Geoff is an Allandale resident who lives in Allandale on Strass Drive just south of Hancock on the west side of Shoal Creek. He is having to suffer the consequences of a speculator who has raised the house next door to him and is building a much larger home in its place.

This is an example of the code enforcement concerns Allandale and other central city neighborhoods are having.  This was on the top of Allandale Neighborhood Association’s  list of issues that I took to the July 19  Townhall neighborhood association meeting
at Palmer Auditorium conducted by city manager, Toby Futrell. 

Geoff’s email was sent on Thursday. On Friday,  a "stop work" notice was posted on the building.

Geoff’s email follows:

I decided to give this a couple of days before responding to see what, if
anything, was being done about the monstrosity going up next door to my house. 
It seems the answer is nothing – at least as far as the city is concerned.

It used to be that the City function acted in a utilitarian way in
regards to its citizens: the greatest good for the greatest number.  In this
case, I have no idea what is motivating the city to overlook the concerns of the
citizens of the neighborhood in the interest of one person.  So, I ask, what is
the motivation?  What unknowns are at play here?  These are not rhetorical
questions.  I fully expect a response.

So let’s re-visit the issues as I
see them (again, these are not rhetorical questions listed herein):
Building_permit1. No
permits were pulled until after Caroline and I contacted the city.  The house
was demolished all the way to the sub-floor – not a single wall remained.  Was a
demolition permit granted?  I, for one, have not seen one.  Below, it seems the
answer is no.

2. $36,000 remodel?  Is this is a joke?  There has already
been $36K of work done on the house.  I would like to hear the City’s
justification for allowing this.  At 2600 sq ft times approximately $150/sq ft,
the figure should be $390,000.

3. What are the impervious cover
restrictions for the lot?  The house is over 2600 sq ft, there is approximately
1000 sq ft of porch, AND there is a garage that’s approximately 500 sq ft.  Is
this within impervious cover restrictions?

4. What recourse do I have
for their, 1. pulling the fence between our property line down and then 2.
knocking down the repairs I had to do because they did not?  Or, am I supposed
to just lay back and take this, as well, in the interest of allowing him to
build this thing?

5. What recourse do I have that building litter is
winding up in my yard?

6. What effect, precisely, does the McMansion law
have upon this house?

7. How will my property taxes be impacted by this
house?  There seems to be the misconception that this house will not have an
adverse impact on its neighbors when this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

That’s enough.  Allow me to clearly state my expectations going
forward:
1. I have to follow the law.  Caroline has to follow the law.  I
expect that this build will follow the letter of the law.  Proper permits need
to be pulled.  If they were knowingly improperly granted, then this needs to be
reversed quickly.  The evidence clearly states that the builder has not done
what is expected of him.

2. No variances.  The build will follow the
law.  Again, I do not understand why the law is being selectively
applied.

3. I expect answers.

If the law is being followed, then I
have no recourse.  It’s that simple.  Otherwise, I will personally continue to
push this.  Due to the inarguable lies and deceptions that have occurred so far,
it’s necessary.

Finally, I would like to address this:
"And remember
to be neighborly."

If I remember correctly, part of being neighborly is
being a law-abiding citizen.  As a property owner who pays taxes and follows the
law, I feel like I already am being neighborly.  However, my "new neighbor," a
house-flipper who is flaunting the law, will never spend a single night in that
house.  In fact, he’s already showing the property, so his story that he’s going
to move in – if he’s used that one on you – is a lie.  We aren’t the people who
need to be lectured, Mr. Marshall.

I may be contacted here.  If I do not
receive an adequate, timely response, I will escalate as necessary.  This house
is having, and will have, a tremendously adverse impact on me.  I may be forced
to move out of the house I have lived in for eight years because of expected
property tax increases, and I have been active in the neighborhood.  All for a
house-flipper.  Seems to be a poor trade, doesn’t it?

Sincerely,

Geoff Mueller

On 7/23/07, Caroline
Reynolds
<crsolns [Email address: crsolns #AT# texas.net - replace #AT# with @ ]> wrote:

This is in response to Mr. Marshall’s note that there is nothing to enforce
at 4905 Strass Drive and an admonition that we be neighborly.  Mr. Marshall’s
note is included below for your review.
Why are we supposed to be neighborly?  Mr. Ugly HOuse, Richard Edson, is
not being neighborly.  He isn’t some dumb guy who makes a mistake.  He has done
this same thing on twenty houses in the area over the past couple of years. 
Neither he nor Housebuyers, Inc. is registered with the Residential Construction
Commission.  Texano Construction is not registered w/ the Commission.  He knows
what is required and what he is not doing.  He is doing this all over
town and City staff is aiding and abetting his breaking the rules.
The best understanding I have gotten so far is Barbara in Mayor Wynn’s
office.  I have told her the system is broken – builders are coming into our
neighborhood and demolishing houses without demolition permits.  They are
building w/o building permits.  They are falsifying info on permit applications
— 4905 is not a remodel, it is not $36,000 of materials and labor and HVAC
equipt., it still doesn’t have the engineer-designed piers under the front or
back of the floor!
City Attorney Deborah Thomas (deborah.thomas [Email address: deborah.thomas #AT# ci.austin.tx.us - replace #AT# with @ ]) for Development Review has a
‘ho hum’ attitude,  saying ‘we just try to get them in compliance’.  She also
says that there is no problem with builders submitting incorrect and false
information on building permit applications because the City’s aim is to gain
compliance.
I reminded her that Mr. Ugly House is not a one-time violator, he is a
knowledgeable, multi-violator.  Helping him obtain a demolition permit well
after the house is torn down and nearly reframed is like a traffic patrol man
stopping me for speeding and then helping me turn my car so it will go faster,
but not writing a ticket.  She feels that my example for Traffic is different
from Development.  I don’t.  I don’t understand why Traffic hands out tickets
for violations and Development hands out after the fact Pemits.
Staff is aiding and abetting rule breakers and then helping them get a
variance when they cannot get a occupancy permit.  In fact there is a section of
the City Code under Development

§ 25-11-93 
APPEAL.

     An
interested party may appeal a decision of the building official to grant or deny
a permit under this division to the Building and Fire Code Board of
Appeal.

at    http://www.amlegal.com/austin_nxt/gateway.dll?f=templates&fn=defa
ult.htm&vid=amlegal:austin_tx

I am writing a letter this evening to the City Attorney and the Mayor
asking that, in light of the numerous omissions and falsifications on the
demolition and building permits and the violations of City Development Code and
a lack of registration with the Texas Residential Construction Commission  by
Mr. Edson, his company (Housebuyers, Inc.) and his contractor( Texano), that I
am officially appealing the decision of the City building official to grant a
demolition and building permit for the property at 4905 Strass Drive.
I ask that you join me in making a written and phone request.
Moreover, the house at 2706 49 1/2 doesn’t have a demolition permit and
hasn’t even passed the site layout inspection back in early May.  No other
inspections have been called for, it is now three stories high.  What can we do
to be neighborly there?  I was told by the City Attorney Thomas that if the
builder cannot pass all the inspections, City staff will help the builder get an
variance?!  Isn’t that rich?
=============================================
Previous correspondence in reverse order, earliest at the bottom:
From: "Marshall, Khalid" <Khalid.Marshall [Email address: Khalid.Marshall #AT# ci.austin.tx.us - replace #AT# with @ ]>
To: "don redmond"
<dredmond12 [Email address: dredmond12 #AT# yahoo.com - replace #AT# with @ ]>
X-OriginalArrivalTime: 17 Jul 2007 20:57:29.0796
Subject=<RE: Residential Building – new construction at 4905 Strass
Dr.>

This department responds to complaints only.  Therefore I can not
say

for sure whether or not I will have to come back to this address. 
At

the moment there is nothing that I have to enforce at this
address.

Though I believe that you need erosion control on your
construction

site.  And remember to be neighborly.

Sincerely, your friendly nieghborhood Code Enforcement
Investigator

Khalid Marshall

SWS Code Enforcement

974-9078 Work

802-7608 pager

—–Original Message—–
From: don redmond [mailto:dredmond12 [Email address: dredmond12 #AT# yahoo.com - replace #AT# with @ ]]
Sent: Tuesday, July 17, 2007 1:52 PM
To: Benavidez, Sylvia
Cc:
Marshall, Khalid
Subject: RE: Residential Building – new construction at 4905
Strass Dr.

Thank you for your reply.  Is the City going to conduct any
further
investigation or enforcement of City’s laws for the activities at
4905
Strass Dr.?

Sincerely,
Don Redmond

— "Benavidez, Sylvia"

<sylvia.benavidez [Email address: sylvia.benavidez #AT# ci.austin.tx.us - replace #AT# with @ ]> wrote:

> No demo has been applied for.

> ________________________________
> From: dredmond12 [Email address: dredmond12 #AT# yahoo.com - replace #AT# with @ ]
> [mailto:dredmond12 [Email address: dredmond12 #AT# yahoo.com - replace #AT# with @ ]]
> Sent: Monday, July 16, 2007
10:30 AM
> To: WPDR Residential Building; Benavidez, Sylvia
> Subject: Residential Building – new construction at  4905 Strass
Dr.
>
 
> Hello,
> I own property near the new construciton at 4905 Strass Dr.
This
> construction activity first started as a remodel, but changed to
a
> complete demolition of the previous structure. There is now
the
> construction of a new building. There appears to be a building
permit
> application for a remodeling job (2007-135396 BP).
>
Has this demolition
> and construction obtained and complied with all
required permits and
> complied with all required codes? With all of the
wet weather, I am
> concered about demolition debris and construciton
waste getting into
> the creek behind the house. I also do not want a
nuisance created in
> the neighborhood if the structure fails because the
construction did
> not follow all of the necessary
requirements.
>
> Thank you,
> Don Redmond
-- 
Caroline Reynolds, P.E.
CR Solutions             512-454-8880   
512-371-3151 fax
crsolns [Email address: crsolns #AT# texas.net - replace #AT# with @ ]
2611 West
49th St.
Austin, Texas  78731