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What you need to know before building a pool in the City of Austin.

An empty green space in your backyard screams “POOL PLEASE”, but there are various factors to consider while you plan for the pool of your dreams.

The first thing you will need is a lot of patience!

If you are within the City of Austin’s Full Purpose or surrounding areas, you need a permit to build a pool. The first thing to ask is, is my property within the City of Austin City limits. This will determine the codes you will follow and help you determine your constraints, essentially identify your “buildable space”.

Second, you need to find out what is the zoning for your lot. Zoning determines these constraints and gives you a better idea of your “buildable space “for example, SF-1 allows for 40% impervious cover, while SF-2 and SF-3 zoning allows for 45% impervious cover (generally, there are some exceptions).

In Austin, you are not allowed to build within the ½ Critical Root Zone of a tree, so if you have a protected tree in your yard there might be constraints to the design, size, or overall feasibility of your project.

Part of knowing your “What is my buildable space?” includes:

  • Deed Restrictions

  • Impervious Cover (IC)

  • Easements

  • Location of Protected Trees – which can be tricky since trees in your neighbor’s lot can impact your construction if the Critical Root Zone extends on your lot, more on that for a separate post.

What is impervious cover? Virtually any man made surface on your lot counts towards impervious cover – You can find a list and definition of this on the City’s Municipal Code page HERE.

Why is it relevant? Each lot requires a percentage of natural ground to be preserved. You will need to know how much Impervious Cover you have (including the house, driveway, detached garages, decks, sheds, pergolas, etc.) and how much you are allowed to have. Do you have enough impervious cover space to build the pool? In Austin, the water surface area is exempt from this calculation, but some jurisdictions do consider this towards your total. In Austin, you still must account for the coping and equipment pad at minimum.

What is an easement? Taken from the Texas Library of LawAn easement is a legal right to use someone else’s land for public or private purposes. While many easement agreements are written into the property records, that is not always the case. Some easements can be obtained through other means.”

Why is it relevant? You are PROHIBITED from building within an Easement 99% of the time. There are exceptions that can be found in County records, but usually it’s a no-go.

Finally, Trees – This one can be a little tricky, but what you need to know is that you cannot build a pool or trench in the ½ Critical Root Zone of any protected tree. In the City

of Austin, a protected tree is any tree 19 inches in diameter, regardless of specie. To learn more about protected trees, check out the City of Austin’s site on regulated tree sizes page.

The easiest way to find property details is by referring to your property Survey, which is sometimes included in the closing documents (the million documents you signed when you purchased your home). If you do not have a survey, you will have to contact a third-party company and request that they do a survey of your property and include all improvements (house, walkways, decking, the little shed in the back, etc.), impervious cover calculation, and protected trees with critical Root Zones and tree species included.

Once you have this survey in hand you have the best tool to determine your “Buildable Space”.

So, you have the physical space, enough impervious cover, and have considered all protected trees on your lot and neighboring lots to identify your buildable space. Now you can move forward with your design, get your floaties on and let’s get to permitting.

Author: Renee Godinez, Project Manager with Permit Solutions

Co-Author: Jennifer Smith, CEO of Permit Solutions

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