Category Archives: Austin City Council

Plan for Auditorium Shores heads to a vote

Plan for Auditorium Shores, including smaller dog area, heads to a vote
12/08/13
Austin American-Statesman
The Austin parks department’s vision for a new, much smaller off-leash dog area at Auditorium Shores is generating a backlash ahead of two votes scheduled this week on the plan.

Currently, dogs are allowed off-leash on all 18 acres of Auditorium Shores, a popular park on the south shore of Lady Bird Lake.

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The new plan would reduce the off-leash area to about 4.7 acres on Auditorium Shores’ west end. City parks officials say it would be a state-of-the-art dog area built with $1.1 million of a $3.5 million donation from event producers C3 Presents, the company that has held the Austin Food & Wine Festival at Auditorium Shores.

But the plan calls for making the middle section of Auditorium Shores on-leash only and for banning dogs altogether from the large event lawn on Auditorium Shores’ east end.

Those changes have dog owners fuming. They believe the city is more interested in turning Auditorium Shores into a profit-generating event venue than into a great space for Austinites who frequent the park.

+Plan for Auditorium Shores, including smaller dog area, heads to a vote photo
ROBERT CALZADA

Austin’s parks board and City Council are scheduled to vote Tuesday and Thursday on a plan for renovations to Auditorium Shores, … Read More

“The changes have been proposed with very little public input and without figuring out who uses the park,” said Suzann Stover, who lives in a downtown condo and visits Auditorium Shores daily with her two dogs. “There has to be other solutions than banning dogs” from most of the park, she said.

Parks officials say the plan is partly meant to separate dogs from other visitors to Auditorium Shores to reduce the safety risks for runners, walkers, cyclists and dogs converging there.

On Tuesday, Austin’s parks board is scheduled to vote on the design of the off-leash area and other renovations planned for Auditorium Shores. The City Council will consider it on Thursday.

The parks department recently expanded the proposed off-leash area slightly, from 3.25 to 4.7 acres, and made a few other design changes after hearing from dog owners. Still, emails about the project reviewed by the American-Statesman show that the parks department spent months crafting the plan and a “message” for how to sell it — and seemed to view seeking public input as an afterthought.

Public park or event venue?

The hubbub over Auditorium Shores began last summer, when C3 offered the city $3.5 million to renovate the park at the same time as C3 sought the city’s permission to extend the Austin City Limits Music Festival, which it produces in Zilker Park, to two weekends.

C3 partner Charlie Jones said at the time that he was disappointed by the dusty conditions at Auditorium Shores during the 2012 Austin Food & Wine Festival, a high-end event for which C3 charges $250 to $850 per ticket.

The City Council approved the request for two ACL weekends and agreed to accept C3’s money. Although the parks department has repeatedly described the $3.5 million as a donation, it will actually be a reimbursement. The city of Austin will pay for the renovations up front, then C3 will reimburse it the $3.5 million over the next five years.

The city entered into a similar arrangement a few years ago, when C3 paid $2.5 million for a renovation of Zilker Park’s Great Lawn.

The Auditorium Shores renovations will include installing new sod and irrigation systems while eliminating the tiered stone walls to regrade the area into a more flexible event space. The off-leash area will have stone steps, a wooden deck and a concrete ramp that allows dogs to access the water; a landscaped barrier, but no fence; a drinking water station for dogs; grass, shade trees and places for dog owners to sit, said parks department official Marty Stump.

A $2.3 million overhaul of the hike-and-bike trailhead at Auditorium Shores, funded with bond money and a state grant, has already begun.

Construction of the other renovations would be done in phases. They would start later this month and be completed in early 2015. Different parts of Auditorium Shores would be closed at different times. The Butler Hike and Bike Trail would remain open during the work, but events normally held at Auditorium Shores, including the Urban Music Festival and Fun Fun Fun Festival, would have to relocate in 2014.

Dog owners say the parks department didn’t make clear until recently that dogs would be banned from a large swath of the park. They say the new off-leash area would be too small for the dozens of dogs and dog owners who visit Auditorium Shores daily. They also believe that the true intent of moving dogs to Auditorium Shores’ west end is to make room for more for-profit events on the east end.

“It seems like this is setting the stage to make it mostly an event venue,” said Cyndi Collen, president of the Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association.

Collen notes that the contract between C3 and the city for the $3.5 million also seems to make C3’s donation contingent on a specific design that includes a smaller, off-leash dog area.

“The bottom line is that the donation is a conflict of interest, because C3 uses Auditorium Shores as an event space,” Collen said. “If they wanted to make a philanthropic donation, they wouldn’t have a contract about how the money has to be used.”

Jones said Friday that C3 “has had zero to do with the design. We have done nothing more than make a financial commitment to the city” to give money to improve Auditorium Shores.

“We do not have any opinion about the dogs out there,” Jones said. “These plans (for Auditorium Shores) have been developed by the parks department over many years. … We’re merely trying to do something good and give back to the city. … We have had nothing to do with the planning.”

Stump said the design is the product of more than a decade of planning for Auditorium Shores, and its intent is to balance the needs of dog owners, event organizers and other park visitors.

“There was never an agenda to adversely impact dog owners. We see this as a beneficial improvement. It’s not popular with folks who want the whole space available for off-leash use; however, everyone has to make some compromises to restore balance to that parkland,” Stump said.

“Controlling the message”

The controversy has reinforced the notion that Austin’s parks department can be clumsy about soliciting public input and using it to authentically shape public policy.

Prior parks department proposals to cut down drought-stricken trees at Barton Springs Pool, outsource the management of Zilker Botanical Garden and privatize the Austin Recreation Center, among others, generated public outcries and were scuttled because the department failed to involve the public and build consensus on the front end.

Hundreds of parks department emails obtained by the Statesman indicate that, as the department crafted the Auditorium Shores plan earlier this year, it sought input from a small group of dog-friendly stakeholders rather than asking the broader public what changes it wants to see at the park. The emails also show that parks officials kept C3’s Jones and the Austin Parks Foundation in the loop about the plan, though it’s not clear how much influence, if any, those entities had on the final design.

In one of the few mentions of C3, parks assistant director Jesse Vargas wrote to colleagues on March 5: “Spoke with Charlie (Jones from C3) – he’s ok with one-year shutdown (of the shores for the renovations) but it took a little persuading. … He is most concerned about dog traffic and asked that we move on this soon – before food and wine fest.”

The department wrote up several “talking points” about the plan in late March, including that the design was the culmination of “extensive public input” – even though only a select group of stakeholders had been shown it at that point.

Parks officials were aware the plan might generate controversy, but they seemed in a rush to get it drawn up and approved, the emails show. They focused on crafting and sticking to a positive message and seemed to view public input as a matter of duty — something to seek only after the big details had already been ironed out.

Stump warned his colleagues in an April 25 email: “The greater off-leash community has not been fully apprised of this initiative. The development of an enhanced off-leash area has been part of the master planning process and discussed openly in the stakeholder and public forums related to this project. However there has never been a formal proposal nor agreement to reduce the (off-leash area) at Auditorium Shores. Certain stakeholders know and understand the benefit and I would expect to be supportive. However, to my knowledge, the former OLAC (Off-Leash Advisory Committee) was never asked to endorse a reduced area. We need to be prepared to answer questions from (the City Council) on this issue and plan for further public/stakeholder outreach.”

Vargas responded that doing a 30-day public comment period would “show good faith and give us time to organize a meeting or two to firm up support or neutralize criticism.”

When an American-Statesman reporter asked about the plan for Auditorium Shores in early May, Vargas urged parks public information manager Victor Ovalle to stay on message. Asked by the Statesman how the $3.5 million would be financed — whether C3 would donate that lump sum up front or reimburse the city later — Ovalle said that hadn’t been determined, even though city budget and parks staffers had already privately discussed how the funding would work, the emails show.

When rumors of the Auditorium Shores design began to circulate in early May and a parks planner answered a Statesman reporter’s questions about the plan, Ovalle admonished the staffer in an email for not trumpeting C3.

“We have been working for weeks to give the headlines to C3 Presents and (the Austin Parks Foundation),” Ovalle wrote. “You talking to the media changed the front page headline and changed the focus to the (parks) department. The story was positive but the outcome was very different. It’s called public perception.”

A media relations staffer at the city asked Vargas in early June, prior to a City Council vote on the plan, if the communications office could mention the plan in a press release. Vargas was reluctant: “We’ve done a pretty good job of controlling the message,” he wrote. “Highlighting the item ahead of the (City Council) vote was not part of the plan.”


What’s next

Austin’s parks board and City Council are scheduled to consider and vote on the plan for Auditorium Shores this week.

The parks board meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Room 1029 at Austin City Hall, 301 W.Second St.

The City Council meets Thursday in the City Council Chambers at City Hall. It’s not clear when it will discuss the item, but the council meeting begins at 10 a.m.

BCNA Letter to Austin Parks & Recreation Board

BCNA opposes the proposed design for the Auditorium Shores Parkland Improvement Project because it does not consider the enormous feedback from park users to eliminate a fenced-in dog area.  Additionally, the agreement between the Parks department (PARD), Austin Parks Foundation (APF) and C3 presents (sponsors of the ACL music festival) refers to the parkland at Auditorium Shores as a ‘major event venue’.  This agreement was signed on November 14, 2013 and C3 requires the city to significantly decrease the off-leash area and install a fenced-in dog park, contrary to public input.

Below is the letter I sent out this evening to the Parks and Recreation Board.  They will be meeting at City Hall on Tuesday evening, 6pm and I plan to present BCNA’s opposition to the design.

 

Dear Austin Parks & Recreation Board Members,

 

While Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association (BCNA) wholeheartedly agrees that Auditorium Shores is in desperate need of turf and irrigation renovations, we remain opposed to the proposed design of the Parkland Improvement Project which severely curtails the amount of space available for off-leash dogs, one of the most popular uses of this parkland area and a use that has been protected by City ordinance for several decades.

 

We understand the timely nature of beginning the project while the trailhead is under construction but PARD and TBG need to be more responsive to the public feedback that questions the current “three meadow” design as being too private-event oriented and too unfriendly to public use, especially by dog owners.  It is a public park, after all, and we feel the current design excludes hundreds, if not thousands, of its’ most enthusiastic “public” park users.

 

Additionally, the Park Land Improvement Agreement (“Contract”) between PARD, APF and C3 repeatedly refers to Auditorium Shores as a ‘major event venue’.  Town Lake Metropolitan Park, as per the Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Plan and the Town Lake Master Plan, envisions the Auditorium Shores/Parkland area as a versatile public space that is available for a limited number of public/private events.

 

Auditorium Shores is a Major public park and a Minor venue site.  It should not be the other way around.  BCNA believes it is not in the best interest of our residents if this parkland is considered a Major Event venue.  The current annual 25-event-day maximum is meant to ensure that Auditorium Shores keeps the identity of a Major public park while also keeping its’ balanced use intact.

BCNA is disappointed that we have not been engaged earlier during the design process.  BCNA is a major stakeholder at Auditorium because Town Lake Metropolitan Park is located with Bouldin Creek’s Neighborhood Plan.  We are concerned that the proposed design to segregate dogs into a fenced-in area, which is opposed by an enormous majority of public park users,  directly conflicts with the FLUM designation for the area as “Park” or “Public Use”.

 

Furthermore, BCNA has been alerted that an agreement between PARD, APF & C3 was signed on November 14, 2013 regarding the scope of the parkland improvement project.  The agreement defines the park as a “major event venue” and BCNA clearly disagrees.   As a stakeholder of the park, why weren’t we notified of this agreement and given an opportunity to review it before its’ execution?

 

Even though I received a copy of the revised design from a Council aide on Friday, BCNA still feels the design is problematic due the continued insistence of installing fences on public parkland to segregate use.  Thus, we respectfully ask the Park and Recreation Board Members to oppose the design, direct PARD to go back to the drawing table by engaging with Austin taxpayers, not C3, to create a balanced design for multiple uses by park users first and foremost, and event-attendees second.

 

Respectfully yours,

Cyndi Collen, President, BCNA

 

 

Auditorium Shores Design and Off-Leash Restrictions on City Council’s Agenda 12/12/13

Next Thursday, Item # 33 on City Council’s Agenda will have Council Members vote on a proposed design to renovate Auditorium Shores.

BCNA is opposed to the design and would like PARD to go back to the drawing board and create a design that considers input from all stakeholders and ensures the use of the public parkland will be primarily for park users.   Events (both public and private) should be a secondary concern.

Below is the letter BCNA is sending to Council Members.   If you’d like to ramp up on what’s happening before sending an email to Council, consider reading my recent post or visit the post that has multiple links to Austin media coverage on this topic by clicking here.

To email City Council, click here and include “Agenda Item #33” in the subject line.  Better still, send City Council an email and then join us at City Hall for the fun and fireworks, which will probably get underway around 8pm.

For more information that is more specific for dogs and the off-leash area, click here.

I know this time of year is busy for everyone but please consider taking an hour reading and emailing so that City Council can hear your opinion on how best to utilize the public parkland at Auditorium Shores.

 

December 6, 2013

Austin City Council Members
888 W. 2nd Street
Austin, Texas  78701

RE:    12/12/13 Agenda Item # 33

Dear Council Members,

While BCNA wholeheartedly agrees that Auditorium Shores is in desperate need of turf and irrigation renovations, we remain opposed to the proposed design of the Parkland Improvement Project, which severely curtails the amount of space available for off-leash dogs, one of the most popular uses of this parkland area and a use that has been protected by City ordinance for several decades.

We understand the timely nature of beginning the project while the trailhead is under construction but PARD and TBG need to be more responsive to the public feedback that questions the current “three meadow” design as being too private-event oriented and too unfriendly to public use, especially by dog owners. It is a public park, after all, and we feel the current design excludes hundreds, if not thousands, of its most enthusiastic “public” park users.

Additionally, the Park Land Improvement Agreement (“Contract”) between PARD, APF and C3 repeatedly refers to Auditorium Shores as a ‘major event venue’.  Town Lake Metropolitan Park, as per the Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Plan and the Town Lake Master Plan envisions the Auditorium Shores/Parkland area as a versatile public space that is available for a limited number of public/private events.

Auditorium Shores is a Major public park and a Minor venue site.  It is not the other way around; a Major Event venue that has a Minor as a public park and that is available to the general public only when events (many of which are private and/or require the park to be fenced off from the general public) are not occupying that public space.  The current 25-event-day maximum is meant to ensure that Auditorium Shores keeps the identity of a Major public park and balance of uses intact.

Thus, we respectfully ask City Council Members to consider opposing the design and ask PARD to go back to the drawing table.  PARD should engage with Austin taxpayers (not C3) to create a balanced design for multiple uses by park users first and foremost, and event-attendees second.

Respectfully yours,
CYNDI COLLEN
President

Important Information: Auditorium Shores Vote

BCNA_AudShores

 

Residents of Bouldin Creek,

An important time is upon us as the city prepares to vote on keeping our cherished Auditorium Shores a public parkland or re-establishing it as an events venue.

If you are interested in reading the Bylaws of the Parks and Recreation Board, click here.

Stay informed on the details be reading more on the topic:

12/08/13
Plan for Auditorium Shores, including a smaller dog area, heads to a vote
Austin American-Statesman
http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/plan-for-auditorium-shores-including-smaller-dog-a/ncFjL/

The Austin parks department’s vision for a new, much smaller off-leash dog area at Auditorium Shores is generating a backlash ahead of two votes scheduled this week on the plan….

12/06/13
Council Preview: Only Reconnect
Austin Chronicle
http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2013-12-06/council-preview-only-reconnect/ 

12/06/13
Then There’s This: Turf Fight at Auditorium Shores
Austin Chronicle
http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2013-12-06/then-theres-this-turf-fight-at-auditorium-shores/

For a city that strives to be on the cutting edge of all things trendy, Austin lags behind a national shift toward creating more off-leash dog parks – what the Trust for Public Land has called the fastest-growing species of city parks in America, with Portland, Ore. leading the pack. Indeed, according to advocacy group Friends of Austin Dog Parks, Austin has steadily downsized its off-leash acreage while other cities have added more space. The shrinkage argument is amping up in advance of a Dec. 10 meeting of the Parks and Rec­re­ation Board, which is set to vote on a proposed redevelopment plan for Auditorium Shores. That plan calls for reducing the existing 18 acres of off-leash space to about four acres (up from the originally proposed three acres)….

10/18/13
Can Runners, Cyclists and Dogs Coexist on Auditorium Shores?
KUT.org
http://kut.org/post/can-runners-cyclists-and-dogs-coexist-auditorium-shores

Proposed changes to Auditorium Shores – and specifically, changes to the area available to dogs and their owners – have people talking….

10/07/13
Auditorium Shores lawn could soon be off limits to dogs
KVUE.com
http://www.kvue.com/news/Auditorium-Shores-could-soon-be-off-limits-to-dogs-226839261.html

C3, the company that puts on the Austin City Limits Music Festival every year, is giving the City of Austin more than $3 million to renovate Auditorium Shores. However part of the proposal, from the 1999 Town Lake Master Plan, includes getting rid of a large part of the leash-free dog park.

10/08/13
Frustration over plan to move Auditorium Shores dog park
KVUE.com
http://www.kvue.com/news/Anger-frustration-over-plans-to-move-dog-park-at-Auditorium-Shores-227000591.html

There were shouts of anger and frustration at a packed public input meeting Tuesday night. Dog owners are upset over the City of Austin’s plan to eliminate a section of the leash-free zone at Auditorium Shores….

 

Delay in Urban Farm Rules Highlights Farm & Neighbor Concerns

Delay in Urban Farm Rules Highlights Farm & Neighbor Concerns

Will Feathers Fly as City Kicks Can Down Road?

Talk about anti-climactic. After months of back-and-forth between farmers, sustainable food activists, concerned neighbors and city officials, City Council opted (7-0) at Thursday’s meeting to delay a vote on changes to the City document that governs urban farms in Austin, asking for more community meetings.

“There has been a lengthy process, and some feel they haven’t been a part of that process,” Council Member Mike Martinez said at the Oct. 17 City Council meeting. “I request we postpone this item to Nov. 21, and that the City Manager try to facilitate a process and work out a few stakeholder meetings and then bring it back to Council.”

All in the Process

The recommended changes to the land code that governs Austin urban farms – mainly around requiring them to procure a permit to host events and setting limitations on on-site fowl processing – came out of an almost yearlong approach to gathering community input, said Katherine Nicely, chair of the working group of the Sustainable Food Policy Board, which was tasked with researching the issue and making a recommendation. The volunteer group of citizens and City employees met with neighborhood associations, interest groups and farmers, and public meetings were held between March and August, averaging about 70 attendees at each.

A volunteer advisory board open to anyone interested, which ended up being 15 people, met weekly, gathering input in person and by email, processing that data and researching best practices. Nicely said members of the group even met some neighborhood association members on their own terms after one expressed fear of expressing his opinions in a public forum.

“We took all of this into consideration because it’s a balance. We have to balance what we’re trying to do by having farms in urban settings because really the city has grown around some of them that have been here for 20 to 25 years,” Nicely said. “But [citizens opposed to urban farms’] concerns are valid as well, because [the farms] can be a nuisance, and [citizens] want to know what’s going on in their backyard.”

However, some say the process wasn’t inclusive enough. Members of People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources (PODER) requested at the Oct. 17 meeting the help of a third-party mediator, like the University of Texas, in the process.

“From the beginning, we asked that an independent body look at the process … along with other stakeholders,” PODER Director Susana Almanza said at the meeting. “It does need to be reviewed because many people don’t even know this is a citywide ordinance. They think it’s just East Austin because that’s where the farms are.”

Throughout the meeting and recommendation process, members of multiple City departments, including Watershed Protection, the Office of Sustainability, the Planning and Development Department, Health and Human Services were included in the discussion, Nicely said.

“There was always a conversation with about seven departments to see where the recommendations would fall,” she said, adding that it’s been a “robust process.” Ultimately, the recommendations were sent to City staff for additional input and were approved (6-1) by the Planning Commission before being added to the City Council agenda.

“The planning commission is a pretty conservative commission,” said Paula McDermott, who chairs the Sustainable Food Board.. “The fact that the planning commission voted for this means they feel like it is fair.”

Power-Hungry Farms?

In addition to questioning the process, the position PODER representatives have taken publicly throughout the debate is that farms shouldn’t exist on urban land zoned for single-family housing, and Mayor Lee Leffingwell echoed that concern at the Oct. 17 meeting, saying he’s “concerned about what appears to be commercial uses in residential zoning.”

Representatives of PODER have also said the farms also represent a power grab in the name of gentrification, decreasing ethnic diversity and affordable housing in neighborhoods.

“The City of Austin must identify and address policies and ordinances that disproportionately impact communities of color and low-income populations. The City Council most work to mitigate and minimize the adverse effects of gentrification.  This ordinance would take single family zoned land and commercialize it,” Almanza said in an email to the Austin Post. “We recommend that outside entities from various departments of the University of Texas and/or other universities come together with community neighborhood groups, representative from Community Development Commission, Human Rights Commission and farmers to develop an Urban Farm Ordinance that doesn’t discriminate and/or further gentrifies East Austin.”

That’s just misplaced blame, says Paula Foore, owner of Springdale Farm, whose ability to host weddings to offset the costs of running the farm may be impacted by the changes to the code.

“The thinly veiled root issue is really about gentrification and the rising taxes and costs of living that affect so many people, particularly long-time residents of East Austin. Urban farms have just been made a target to voice that platform,” she said. “I am in complete agreement that the city needs to address the rising costs of housing; I am in complete disagreement that urban farms have anything to do with that. Moreover, I think a postponement of the vote on the proposed recommendations will give time to further inflame an already racially charged issue.”

There are some issues that changes to a land code just can’t solve, Nicely added.

“Urban farms aren’t taking away single-family use or affordable housing; that’s a bigger issue,” she said. “There will be people who are still unhappy [if the changes are accepted], but a land code isn’t going to make those people happy.”

An urban farm under current code is “a parcel of land between 1 and 5 acres that is agriculturally cultivated by a person solely for the production of organic produce to be sold for profit;” typically, this doesn’t include backyard plots or community gardens. There are 20 urban farms in the city limits and another nine in Austin’s extraterritorial jurisdiction. Some of these farms are new, and some, like Boggy Creek Farm which began in 1992, have been operating for decades.

“People have been growing food in Austin since before the city was the city,” Kate Vickery, urban agriculture planner for the Sustainable Urban Agriculture & Community Garden Program.

The two biggest changes regarding urban farms would be as follows:

1. The creation of two new land uses: Market Garden and Urban Farm with Facilities for Gatherings.

  • A Market Garden would be a commercial farm operation on a piece of land smaller than 1 acre with limitations on on-site sales. For example, a Market Garden could not have an on-site farm stand or process chickens or rabbits raised on site.
  • An Urban Farm with Facilities for Gatherings would be an urban farm of 1 to 5 acres that is permitted to have events like weddings, fundraisers, cooking classes and dinners if a Conditional Use Permit is acquired. The permit requires public notice, public hearing and approval by the City of Austin Planning Commission.

2. A cap on the number of animals (chickens or rabbits) that can be processed, at one animal per one-tenth of an acre per week. This is a change from the current code, which states that processing fowl is permitted but doesn’t plan restrictions on how many or how often. Under the change, a 2-acre farm could process 20 animals per week, with the appropriate city and state health department permits.

Many issues are being considered, including the types of events that take place on an urban farm (and what sort of parking requirements are needed for events), what can be called an urban farm, how many employees can work on the urban farm, how many buildings can the farm have, and what can be sold from a farm stand. However, the issue that’s garnered the most attention is on processing animals on-site at farms.

“Maybe we could get a cooperative or City-sponsored processing center together, alleviating the need to have them onsite,” said City of Austin Council Member Laura Morrison at the Oct. 17 meeting. “If we got that discussion going in parallel, that could alleviate a lot of the discussions about whether or not we need to have slaughtering on site.”

Where Did We Start?

Although the crux of the work on the code update took place in the last 10 months, the process began years ago. The Sustainable Urban Agriculture and Community Garden Program was created by Austin City Council in 2009 to provide a single point of contact to farms and to streamline the process for establishing community gardens and sustainable urban agriculture on city land. One of the things the multi-departmental team realized right off the bat was the land use code governing urban farms and community gardens was sorely out of date, McDermott said.

The first couple of years, the board spent a lot of time on community gardening, but in 2011, when City Council voted to permit urban farms in all land use zones, members “realized that the urban farm definition was a bit arbitrary and wasn’t really fleshed out, so that’s something we wanted to work on but didn’t have the bandwidth,” McDermott said. The City created a position specifically to help with that bandwidth problem, and the process got started.

As anyone following the issue knows, things picked up steam last November, when a neighbor complained about the smell coming from East Side farm HausBar’s compost pile. Owners of the farm had been slaughtering and composting chickens, a legal practice in Austin, and something went awry in the compost pile one day. The citizen complained to the City, but it wasn’t until he took his issue to the Austin American-Statesman that it got much attention.

Once everyone started looking into what was and wasn’t allowed though, the confusion came in. In fact, HausBar was out of compliance with only one part of the current code, which says an urban farm can only have one dwelling; however, HausBar is actually zoned SF-3, which allows two dwellings.

“This is one example of how the current code creates confusion,” said Vickery. “Had the situation at HausBar Farm not occurred earlier this year, I believe the Board would have made recommendations regarding the land development code for urban agriculture another time.”

Carol Ann Sayle, co-owner of Boggy Creek Farm, said the issue might have been avoided if the City had acted quickly on the complaint, rather than waiting for the media to get involved.

“The farmers want the code update to be passed … So to make the farms happy, pass the code update,” she said. “To keep 99 percent of the neighbors happy, the city should act immediately on any of their complaints to make sure the farms obey the codes.”