Having a McMansion with a carport

Living in a McMansion yet also having a carport seems incongruent. Yet, this recently was an issue in Austin, Texas:

Given a Planning Commission vote and a range of opposition willing to stay late to fight, it seems unlikely that McMansion rules on carports and garages will be changing any time soon.

At their most recent meeting, Planning Commissioners considered an amendment that would change part of Subchaper F, aka the McMansion Ordinance, that eliminates exemptions for carports when they are enclosed. (Enclosing carports, of course, turns them into garages.) Instead, staff is recommending that the exemption be based entirely on where the structure is located in relation to the house, not whether it is a carport or a garage.

Senior Planner Greg Dutton explained that, under the current code, carports get a 450-square-foot exemption when 10 feet or farther from the main house. If closer, the exemption is 250 square feet. However, if exempted carports are subsequently enclosed, that exemption is reduced, and can cause problems for unsuspecting homeowners.

The change was initiated after a perceived flurry of requests for waivers from that rule hit City Hall. Those requests came from homeowners who put doors on what they thought were unfinished garages, only to be told their homes were now out of compliance because those structures were previously considered carports under city code. Dutton said the influx of waivers seems to have died down.

I could see two reasons for having a carport rather than a garage:

  1. They are cheaper to construct because you don’t need to enclose the whole structure.
  2. With warmer weather, carports become more viable because all you want is a roof over the vehicle. (Hence, there are not as many carports in colder weather climates.)

Yet, the first reason would feed into a common critique of McMansions: so much money is spent on trying to impress people from the street – usually with the size of the home or the overblown architectural elements – that there is little leftover for other features like the back of the house or a carport. In other words, if you spend a lot of money to build a McMansion, couldn’t you go a little further and construct a garage as well?

To be honest, I’ve never seen a picture of a McMansion with a carport. Indeed, one of the nicknames for McMansions is “snout houses” because they tend to lead with a large garage. Perhaps carports occur more in teardown situations where the size of the lot makes it more difficult to have a large garage on the front and an existing carport in the back or on an alley is a viable alternative.

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