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Council permits additional entertainment at Springdale Farm

Friday, August 21, 2015 by Audrey McGlinchy, KUT

As more than one City Council member noted, the conclusion to a 5-acre farm’s appeal for more outdoor entertainment allowances had been a long time in the making.

And on Thursday it ended in favor of the farm owners. With a vote of 10-1 (with Council Member Ora Houston opposing), Council members granted an appeal of an earlier decision made by the Planning Commission and thereby approved a permit boosting Springdale Farm’s ability to hold several dozen events throughout the year.

“This is not a farm,” said Mayor Steve Adler. “This is something that is more than a farm.”

The Conditional Use Permit 3-2 allows the farm to host a limitless number of small events (50 people or fewer) annually, plus five events of more than 150 people and 22 events with attendance numbering between 51 and 150. At 22 of these events, owners will also be permitted to have sound amplifiers. In addition, the permit includes an agreement between the owners and the Austin Independent School District, allowing off-site parking at the district’s former Allan Elementary School.

The public hearing and subsequent decision Thursday went forward despite a request by opponents to postpone yesterday’s item until Oct. 1, when their attorney, Bill Aleshire, would be back in town.

Springdale Farm owners Paula and Glenn Foore stood in front of Council members, asking them to grant an appeal of a Planning Commission decision made in June that blocked the farm from adding outdoor entertainment to its existing farm use. While the Planning Commission did vote to grant that permit, the decision failed because of a lack of quorum.

Supporters of the farm’s appeal filled City Hall on Thursday, sporting green t-shirts and stickers reading, “Know Farms, Know Food.” Speakers stressed the community value of the farm and testified that the Foores have been good neighbors in the community.

Paula Foore said as much herself during her remarks.

“This is a bigger issue than just one little farm. This is about real neighbors and real community, and working together for the good of everyone,” said Foore. “This is about preserving a neighborhood farm — a farm that the city grew up around. It’s about food access, and it’s about 5 acres of commercially zoned property.”

But neighbors opposed to the additional use said they enjoyed living near a farm – but did not want to live near an event center.

“This is about neighborhood protection,” said Daniel Llanes, a member of People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources (PODER). “It’s not about urban farming.”

In explaining his decision to vote in support of the appeal, Adler said for him it came down to asking owners to deny the general use of their piece of property.

“This is also not a residential use,” he said. “This is not a property whose use is supposed to be compatible with residential uses because it’s a commercial property.”

But while Council Member Greg Casar said he agreed with Adler and voted in favor of the appeal, he cautioned his colleagues to discern the larger fight being waged beyond City Hall’s doors.

“I believe a lot of the folks who came and spoke before us now have very legitimate concerns about whether or not this is a space that is truly for that community,” Casar said. “I think the folks that have brought this up as a symbol or as a symptom of that kind of gentrification need to be listened to and should be listened to.”

Photo by Visitor7 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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