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Llano County nixes variance request from Kingsland development

The Drace development in Kingsland, Texas

The Drace, a 48-lot lakeside subdivision in Kingsland, is in the final stages of development. As lots are being sold, the property’s developers sought variances to Llano County building codes allowing structures to be closer together. The Llano County Commissioners Court ultimately denied the request. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

The Llano County Commissioners Court denied a requested building variance for a high-dollar subdivision in Kingsland. The developer of The Drace requested wiggle room on the distance between structures, but commissioners stuck to regulations, not wanting to set a precedent for small, compact lots across the county. 

The decision was made during the Commissioner Court’s regular meeting on Aug. 28.

The Drace, a 48-lot subdivision, has been in the works for years. Lots line man-made canals on Lake LBJ and range in price from around $300,000 to $1.2 million, depending on the location. 

Llano County’s subdivision regulations require the entirety of a structure be at least 5 feet from the property line on lots less than a half-acre in an effort to reduce fire risk, prevent excessive stormwater runoff, and allow for adequate drainage.

With the subdivision in its final stages, developer Jeff Minarcik asked the county for a variance that would allow homes to extend 20 inches into the 5-foot building setback.

Four of the five members of the Commissioners Court voted against the variance. Commissioner Mike Sandoval abstained. Sandoval represents Kingsland in Precinct 3 and was the sole supporter of the variance. He chose to remove himself from the equation when he saw the rest of the court was in staunch opposition.

“These lots on the river are $1.5 million — that’s per lot,” Sandoval said when he introduced the agenda item. “The other lots go all the way back up to (Ranch Road) 1431, and those lots are probably close to $800,000. And that doesn’t even count the houses that will go on them. For Llano County, this 48-lot complex is going to boost our tax base considerably.”

(A developer for The Drace later contacted to clarify that lots cost from $300,000 to $1.2 million.)

County Judge Ron Cunningham agreed with Sandoval’s assessment of the potential benefits but did not want to set a precedent. 

“I know for a fact that it’s going to be a great improvement for Kingsland and Llano County, but I’m concerned about setting a standard now that any future subdivision to come in will want to claim the same exception,” he said.

Minarcik addressed the Commissioners Court prior to deliberation, stating that he had never encountered a regulation that interpreted the setbacks as including the roof rather than only applying to the walls of the building.

“As far as (my experience) building in the last 20 years, the interpretation of the building setbacks (in Llano County), I just want to question,” he said. “If there is something on y’all’s end in that interpretation that is different from everywhere else I have ever worked, what is that concern?”

Minarcik noted that the International Building Code only applies to the walls of a structure and usually not to the roof or its fascia. 

Precinct 2 Commissioner Linda Raschke defended the county’s subdivision rules, which she helped develop.

“In my seven years working on the subdivision regulations, it was the full structure, for many reasons, not just fire,” she said. “I worry about stormwater runoff because The Drace is at the lowest point of the county, and it flooded more than anywhere else (during the 2018 flood).”

Raschke explained that many of the lots were only 40 or 50 feet wide and would already be quite close. She also said the abundance of concrete and construction in one area would cause a great deal of runoff during storms, which would contribute to flooding and erosion.

Sandoval lamented the possible negative effect the no vote could have on future development.

“What I hear is that we don’t grant any variances,” he said. “Everybody is going to have something that looks like a Section 8 project.”

The other four members of the court voiced their disagreement before taking the vote to deny the requested variance.

2 thoughts on “Llano County nixes variance request from Kingsland development

  1. Perhaps if Kingsland incorporated as a city, they could write their own zoning laws and codes.

  2. And right they were to do so. 40-50ft wide lots at $1 million a pop? Double the lot size and build within the guidelines. If you got to the final stages of development without understanding the rules then you should fire yourself for; 1. being greedy, 2. being incompetent, and 3. an unbelievable lack of due diligence. A 40-50ft lot can only end up looking like a Section 8 development, no matter the setbacks. That Sandoval backed this makes one wonder why.

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