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Urban Farm stakeholders try to cut deal on chicken slaughtering

Thursday, November 21, 2013 by Michael Kanin

With Council members set to vote on an ordinance that would memorialize city policy in regard to urban farms, at least two stakeholders were pitching a compromise over the hotly contested issue Wednesday afternoon. It remained unclear, however, whether their efforts would win Council approval.


Planning Commissioner Richard Hatfield and HausBar Farms owner Dorsey Barger were shopping a potential compromise over the slaughtering portions of the issue. As pitched, the compromise would allow HausBar to continue its chicken slaughtering practices under a pilot program. Should that version meet with approval from Council members, HausBar would be the only facility allowed to practice on-site slaughtering.


Though Hatfield and Barger disagree about a relatively smaller detail – whether the pilot should be included as part of the Urban Farm rules (Barger) or pulled out and processed separately, an action that could result in commercial zoning for the operations (Hatfield) – they both told In Fact Daily Wednesday that they believe that the deal they brokered is a fair resolution. For her part, Barger added that HausBar would welcome the microscope that would come with being the only participant in a pilot program.


Still, it was not immediately clear whether the Hatfield-Barger compromise had gotten any traction at City Hall. Council Member Laura Morrison told In Fact Daily Wednesday that she would still seek a centralized processing facility for locally raised meat. She noted that such a facility would ultimately be a more fair solution in that it would offer access to everyone who needed processing tools.


Morrison added that city staff had been working on questions around the potential construction of a central processing operation.


Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole told In Fact Daily that she had not yet seen the compromise late Wednesday. She did, however, obtain a copy of the proposal and appeared ready to examine it.


Barger and Hatfield added that they had visited every Council office with their proposal.


HausBar neighbors have raised concerns about open composting and slaughtering at the farm, located in a neighborhood in East Austin. Among those expressing wide concern is well-known activist Susana Almanza.


Even though Almanza has protested mightily against urban farms recently, it seems she has not always thought they were a bad idea. According to records of the Planning Commission, of which she was a member in 1999, Almanza voted in favor of the first ordinance allowing farms in single-family zoned areas.


Under that ordinance, farms would be allowed in the Desired Development Zone for lots of one to five acres not entirely within a 100-year or a 25-year floodplain. That same ordinance provided that the urban farm use would be a conditional use in single-family districts in the Drinking Water Protection Zone or within the flood plains.


The amendment was proposed by the Smart Growth Task Force. At the July 30, 1999 meeting, five members of the commission, including Almanza approved forwarding the ordinance to the City Council. Chair Betty Baker was opposed, two members were absent and one off the dais. The minutes note that Baker “asserted her displeasure with the provision of the ordinance that would allow” fowl. Apparently she did not have much support for that position at the time.


Almanza is widely rumored to be seeking one of the newly available districted Council seats.

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