Large houses could be defined as a nuisance by the city
At its regular meeting Nov. 13, West Lake Hills City Council members began discussing limiting new home sizes in the city.
"Often we see these larger homes come before us [for approval] that use up an inordinate amount of resources, construction materials, energy and water," Councilwoman Linda Anthony said. "I think it is time to revisit how we want our community to look. Our master plan speaks to aesthetics, and there are a number of ways to restrict house sizes."
Council discussed a number of ways to limit house sizes including defining a megahome as a nuisance because it would pose a fire safety threat and obstruct scenic views.
"Most cities use a combination of regulations [to limit home sizes]," Assistant City Attorney Natasha Martin said.
Martin listed mass, siting and design as possible ordinances council could enact to limit home sizes.
"I am very much in favor of going down this road," Mayor Pro Tem Stan Graham said. "I see these massive homes, and I don't think that is West Lake Hills. I think we want to establish that feeling of smaller homes with friendly people."
Graham said property taxes would not be an issue if home sizes were limited, as only 20 percent of the city's gross revenue is generated from property taxes.
"We already have enough restrictions on setbacks and [home] height," he said. "I would like to see an ordinance based on square footage."
Anthony said she is in favor of putting a square footage limit on homes rather than limiting home sizes through other ordinances.
"It's intellectually more honest and clearer to put a square footage [limit on homes]," she said. "But I wanted [council] to have a cornucopia of ideas there."
Councilman Taylor Holcomb said he is reluctant to put a cap on home sizes, but thinks the idea should be explored.
"I think we should go down this path," he said. "I have an aversion to putting a square foot limit on someone's home. It hurts me to limit someone's house."
West Lake Hills Mayor Dave Claunch agreed with Holcomb's stance but said whatever ordinance is created should be intellectually honest with citizens.
"I understand that we, as a government, need to be aware of resource management," Claunch said. "But we are bordering on telling people what they can and can't do."
Councilman David Moore said he thinks restrictions should be on a sliding scale dependent on lot size.
"That would make it equitable," he said. "There are a lot of things to take into account with this."
Council agreed to look into the idea, including examining possible unintended consequences of a potential ordinance and to revisit the issue in January.