Updated: Jan 11, 2021
What led to the creation of the "Attached Single Family" code section?
In 1987, builder Nash Phillips Copus, worked with the City of Austin to create a way to convert his large inventory of duplexes into fee simple dwellings and he succeeded. The City of Austin adopted development standards to allow for a subdivision of parcel into two lots and construct Single-Family-Attached units, which could be sold separately.
I recently helped a client permit an above ground pool (which is a nightmare of its own), a pergola, and an uncovered wooden patio built over a concrete slab. The property was zoned SF-3 and appeared to be a detached Single-Family-Residence (SFR). However, not everything is what it seems.
The site we were trying to permit, we'll call it House 1, was attached to the neighboring residence, we'll call it House 2, by a metal beam (shown in the photo). While researching the original permit, I discovered the house was built as a Single-Family-Attached Residential Use under code section LDC 25-2-772. This means that while the Single-Family-Residence has its own "lot", the two houses (House 1 + House 2) are considered one "site" and therefore both "lots" have to be considered when applying for a permit.
Why does this matter? In this case, it was advantageous to the client since we were able to add both lots to accommodate his development and stay under the impervious cover maximum of 45% per "site". I should mention that by the time Permit Solutions started assisting the customer with this permit, he had already been rejected by both zoning and structural review. The structural reviewer had missed the fact that this was a Single-Family-Attached development and required fire separation between structures, and that setbacks be met between the two lots, which in this case did not actually apply. We were able to determine that there is no setback line between the two lots and have these comments cleared instantly.
Take aways from this project: always do a search of the permit history on your projects. Most of this information can be found on Austin Build + Connect. Sometimes you find helpful information from looking at older permits. Downloading the property profile report from the Austin GIS Development Services Tool is extremely helpful in finding zoning history that can help you foresee issues before they become a problem. Finally, when processing a permit for a Single-Family-Attached residence remember that both "lots" make up the "site" and regulations for this specific use are a bit different and superseded by section LDC 25-2-772.
Can your lot accommodate this type of development?
A subdivision with Single-Family-Attached residential lots is permitted on unplatted land;
a platted dulplex lot that is vacant (a platted duplex lot is considered any lot that by zoning and lot size would allow a duplex)*;
or a platted lot developed with a duplex on or before March 1, 1987, if the duplex complies with current regulations.
These may only be created in multiples of two lots per site, and each lot must be served by public water and sewage systems. In addition, the lot must comply with a series of development requirements related to lot size, width, and other development standards. As of today, staff recommendations with the development code update have been to allow attached single-family dwellings where ever duplexes are allowed as a permitted use. However, the ultimate fate of this will be determined when the final version of the code update is finally adopted.
Hopefully this small read helps you avoid mistakes when dealing with Single-Family-Attached developments. As always, remember to check with the City of Austin on every project to receive the most up-to-date information and always check the code. Have a great week!
This post is being published as the Development Code Update is being amended and (hopefully) implemented. Be sure to check the most updated information with the City of Austin to ensure you are applying the most up-to-date code to your projects. This post is not intended as an alternative to City Code regulations.