Manor landowner told she can’t build ‘barndominium’ on property due to code issues

MANOR, Texas (KXAN) — A Manor property owner said city code ordinances have delayed her plan to build the farmhouse of her dreams despite her land being outside Manor’s city limit.

Patsy Graham has long lived in the Austin area. She said she purchased several acres of land in the Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction outside of Manor this past spring.

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This is a part of Travis County that has not yet been incorporated into the city’s boundaries.

Graham said she purposefully purchased land in the ETJ so she would not have the same permit and building limitations if she were building within the city – or so she thought.

Her plan is to build a barndominium, a metal barn-like structure that’s converted into a furnished home.

Graham said she was told by the City of Manor that she would have to build the home up to codes more typically associated with homes in large subdivisions.

“The building code is quite strict. They’ve told me I can’t have a barn or a barndominium. We’re out in the country,” Graham said.

Scott Moore, Manor city manager, said the city’s Development Services Department met with Graham to discuss the city’s building permit process.

He said Graham’s initial building plan did not meet certain building codes and had a few life safety/fire code issues. Moore said the department recommended that Graham hire a design professional to update the plans before purchasing the building package.

He said city staff discussed the design criteria for single-family dwellings with Graham and that the city has a history of working closely with families building different types of structures.

Moore also said the city tries to work with property owners on plans like these to avoid landowners pre-paying for plans that will not be allowed.

“We have witnessed a few property owners taken advantage of in the past, which could have been avoided if a pre-development meeting had been initiated,” Moore said.

Inspection concerns as city sees population growth

Graham said another concern she has with the ongoing build process is getting the home inspected once it is complete.

“All I can see is delays and more frustration,” Graham said.

Graham said she’s worried about inspection times because of the number of subdivisions being built in Manor as well.

Moore said right now, the city has two full-time inspectors on staff with one of those positions currently vacant.

He also said the city also has an existing contract with an inspection firm and recently partnered with another third-party contractor to tackle the big workload.

From October 2022 to September 2023, Moore said inspectors checked out 20,700 homes, averaging 92 inspections each day. He said the department does its best to keep up with the number of homes it must inspect but it has met demand sufficiently and often on the same day service is requested.

“The city has not had any issues providing timely inspections when they’re requested,” Moore said in a statement.

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