McMansion Ordinance

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Hello again from Olson Defendorf Custom Homes in Austin, TX.

This month we are talking about the 26 page McMansion ordinance passed by the Austin city council September 28, 2006. We get questions about what can be built, where, and what it needs to look like. This will clear up some confusion, and provide a link to the actual ordinance.

For those unfamiliar with the McMansion ordinance, the city describes the intent as, “…to minimize the impact of new construction, remodeling and additions to existing building on surrounding properties in residential neighborhoods by defining an acceptable buildable area for each lot within which new development may occur. The standards are designed to protect the character of Austin’s older neighborhoods by ensuring that new construction and additions are compatible in scale and bulk with existing neighborhoods.”

In easier terms, the ordinance restricts the size and style of the home you can build or remodel in certain areas of Austin. The boundary for the ordinance is approximately Ben White on the south, 183 on the north and east, and 360 on the west.

A few of the major points to consider when building inside this boundary are

1. Floor to Area Ratio (FAR) – This chapter allows you to build up to 40% of you lot size. FAR includes all of 1st, 2nd, 3rd floors and covered decks/patios on the 2nd and 3rd floors. For example, if you have a 60’x120’ lot that equals 7,200 sqft, you would be able to build a 2,880 (7,200 x 40%) sqft home on this lot.

2. Setback Planes (Tenting) – This chapter restricts building to be inside of a setback plane or a “tent.” Basically it is a setback plane angle that starts on a horizontal line 15’ above the side property line and slopes inward at a 45 degree angle creating a tent effect. The home must be built inside of this “tent.”

3. Sidewall Articulation - This chapter requires two story homes to have a recessed wall area on the sides of the home over every 32’. The goal is to try to break up huge walls of siding etc. from the side neighbors’ point of view.

If you are thoroughly confused, don’t worry. Troy and I know the ordinance inside and out, and we can tell you fairly quickly what can and cannot be built on your lot. I have also attached a link to the city’s website for the actual ordinance if you want to read it for yourself.