Council: Hutto martial arts business must comply with historic building standards

Tiger Rock Martial Arts will have until the end of the year to comply with building standards set forth by Hutto's Historic Preservation Commission or face the city revoking the certificate of occupancy on its new building.

Tiger Rock moved to its newly constructed building on Front Street in March. Before building began, the business submitted a site plan to the HPC that was approved early last year. According to HPC Chairman Jeff Phillips, the commission advised Tiger Rock that the building would need to slant the four proposed awnings planned for the front of the building, use fixtures with a historic look on proposed lighting, use crown molding-style trim materials on the outside of the building and add raised flower beds in front of building as part of landscaping plan to meet HPC standards.

"To comply with the warrant, we wanted them to adjust to meet our architectural standards that we apply to all of the historic district," Phillips said. "We are implementing the design standards ... that the council has adopted for the area."

The new building, however, failed to meet the four requirements, including only one of the four planned awnings being installed, and without a slant. Tiger Rock reapproched the HPC after construction to have the building approved as is and received HPC approval, on the conditions that the three additional awnings be installed and all four be slanted, new historic-looking downward lighting be installed on the outside of the building and a minimum of four six-foot long galvanized troughs or 4 by 4 foot urn-style planters be added at storefront windows.

In an attempt to appeal the HPC's conditions, the issue was brought before the Hutto City Council at its May 9 meeting. Tiger Rock owner Mark Hatchett asked the council to repeal the standards, arguing that budgetary concerns prevented him from installing the additional awnings and after pouring his personal finances into the construction, no money was left to make the HPC's changes. Hatchett also said the HPC never provided examples of historic lighting, and he felt the building's current lighting met the historic feel.

"[The standards were] all put in the light of recommendations, or at least that's what we felt," Hatchett said. "They never, in my recollection, asked us to come back and provide them with detailed drawings of what were were going to do. When we went back to do our final review with them after the building was built, we were looking for leniency on a couple things that we didn't accomplish."

However, Phillips urged the council to uphold the HPC's decision, saying the commission was established to evenly enforce building standards in historic Hutto and its standards were made clear to Tiger Rock before construction of the building started.

"We are applying [building standards] evenly and consistently to all applicants that come before us. If the Council were to approve that appeal, it would make more difficult for staff to help people through the process, knowing that any of it can be overruled by the city council."

The Council members expressed a desire to help businesses, but said allowing Tiger Rock to avoid HPC's standards would set a bad precedent for future construction.

"If we hold one business accountable for meeting those [conditions], then we have to do that across the board," Mayor Pro Tem Ronnie Quintanilla-Perez said. "Otherwise we get in situations where it doesn't matter what conditions are set, everyone will just say 'I'm not going to meet them' and see if they can be undone later."

The Council unanimously approved granting Tiger Rock a temporary certificate of occupancy until the end of the year, and said the business had until then to construct the additional awnings and add historic lighting to the front of the building. The landscaping standard was removed. If Tiger Rock does not comply with the standards within the allotted time frame, it will not be allowed to operate in the building.

"Obviously that's not the intent, so we would expect them to comply to the conditions," Hutto Planning Manager Will Guerin said. "I don't think it'll come to that, and that's certainly not our wish."

Phillips said he was pleased with the Council's decision and that council members saw the value of the HPC's standards.

"We're not coming across as heavy handed or over-the-top on our requirements," Phillips said. "We're trying to keep in mind that people do have budgets to work with. It's just unfortunate that Tiger Rock did not seek clarification when they had questions before they purchased those items or had the work accomplished to avoid having to go back and redo something."

However, Hatchett expressed disappointment in the outcome and said he felt the building already met the necessary standards.

"I was dismayed," he said. "We built a million dollar building in Hutto on a piece of property between a Dollar General and a cell phone tower, probably the nicest building in Hutto. We felt that we met most of the criteria for HPC and we definitely met all the criteria of the city, including city improvements."

By Korri Kezar
Korri Kezar graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011 with a degree in journalism. She worked for Community Impact Newspaper's Round Rock-Pflugerville-Hutto edition for two years before moving to Dallas. Five years later, she returned to the company to launch Community Impact Newspaper's Keller-Roanoke-Northeast Fort Worth edition, where she covers local government, development, transportation and a variety of other topics. She has also worked at the San Antonio Express-News, Austin-American Statesman and Dallas Business Journal.


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