Council rejects historic zoning plan for house on East Seventh Street

Tuesday, August 2, 2022 by Jo Clifton

Failing nine votes to overcome the property owner’s objection, the city council last week declined a request from the Historic Landmark Commission to designate “a fine example of Victorian folkloric architecture” as historic. The Carlson-Colunga House at 902 E. Seventh Street was built between 1903 and 1906 by Swedish immigrants Victor and Carl Carlson, according to the East Austin Historic Resource Survey. Because the owner was against the historic designation, the city ordinance required nine votes to declare the property historic.

The Council heard conflicting motions, but took only one vote on the matter. After Councilman Natasha Harper-Madison filed a motion to deny historic zoning plans, Councilman Leslie Pool made what she called a replacement motion to designate the property as historic. Mayor Steve Adler told her if she disagreed with the original motion, she should just vote no. However, he said they should vote on Pool’s motion first – though he said they violated Robert’s Rules of Order. Harper-Madison didn’t object.

The six votes for historic zoning came from councilors Chito Vela, Kathie Tovo, Pio Renteria, Pool, Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter and Adler. Harper-Madison and councilors Paige Ellis, Ann Kitchen and Mackenzie Kelly voted no. Councilor Vanessa Fuentes did not participate, so there were only 10 votes.

It was the last item on a very long Council agenda, which ended at 11:42 pm. If Adler had wanted to extend the discussion, he could only have voted in first reading, and the issue would have been on the future agenda. However, seeing little chance of a final approval, he adopted the 6-4 vote as the final statement on the Council’s position.

According to Kalan Contreras of the Historic Preservation Office, the house not only meets the criteria for design, but also because it reflects living patterns in East Austin. The house had several tenants, both Swedish and Mexican immigrants. Contreras said the last inhabitants of the house were the Colunga sisters, who lived in it from the 1930s to the 1970s.

Employees and the Planning Commission agreed to the Historic Landmark Commission’s request that the cottage be historicized. Contreras told the council that the historic commission initiated historic zoning plans when it reviewed an application to move the house to Kyle. The property’s owner, RPC East 7th St LLC, opposed the historic designation, with agent Nic Costello telling the Council that the home did not meet historic zoning criteria and that neither the home nor its residents should be classified as historically significant. considered.

However, it was the opposition of District 1 Harper-Madison that sealed the property’s fate. She argued that the house had been vacant for some time and was too expensive for residents of her neighborhood to rent as business space. Making it historic would only add to the price tag, she said. Moreover, according to her, the house did not really fit in with the transit district that the area has become.

Earlier in the day, the council set consideration on another proposed historic home, the Tofie and Bertha Balagia home at 1403 E. Cesar Chavez St. This home is in the Renteria neighborhood and he wanted the case adjourned.

According to the staff report, “The property is associated with the family behind Balagia Produce, who contributed significantly to the Austin commerce. From 1925 to 1959, this house was owned and occupied by members of the Balagia family. … It was the business where many went to order their holiday turkeys and meats and for years had the state contract to supply meat to state institutions. Balagia Produce continued to serve the city and surrounding areas and became one of the largest suppliers of meat and produce in the state of Texas.” That item will return to the Council on September 1. Since the current owner is against monument status, it also needs nine votes to be classified as historic.

photo by Texas Historical Commission, University of North Texas Libraries, Portal to Texas History.

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