Tuesday, September 02, 2014

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Austin

Council Wrap: Changes to urban farming rules, council shoots down fast food zoning

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New rules for urban farmers

Urban farms are allowed to stay in operation in Austin, but with a few new rules.

Farmers can still raise fowls, but they can't slaughter and process them if the farm is in a neighborhood.

The farms are also often popular venues for special events and weddings. Under the new rules, those are capped at six a year.

Farm owners say those extra events are crucial to them. Neighbors who are against the farms say operations have commercialized their neighborhoods.

"The properties in question are not in a rural setting,” Austin resident Daniel Llanes said. “They are in a densely populated single-family neighborhood surrounded by homes and churches."

Right now, Austin has three urban farms on the east side. Two have been operating for more than 20 years.

"Urban farms are urban,” Paula Foore with Springdale Farm said. “That's the special ingredient. It's why the very space we inhabit draws community. We build community as we farm."

The new rules take effect March 21.

City Council shoots down fast food restrictions

Fast food chains and convenience stores are no longer the target of Austin city leaders.

With a 4-3 vote, Austin City Council voted against the creation of healthy food zones around schools, parks and child care centers.

The plan would have offered incentives to nearby restaurants and stores that offered healthy foods and limited access to food and drinks with high fat, sugar and sodium content.

Business owners said the plan--although still under development--unfairly targeted them.

"My class of restaurant is being segregated from the food industry and being negatively targeted. That is an arbitrary and capricious action,” Allen Benton, owner of a McDonalds franchise, said. “I am extremely insulted by that."

The City Council endorsed the Community Health Improvement Plan, which looks for ways to

Council delays landlord accountability plan

A lack of support likely stalled plans to hold Austin landlords accountability.

For months, the city council talked about ways to address code compliance problems at apartments and duplexes. The ordinance would have ordered staff to go after repeat offenders more aggressively, and require landlords to provide updated contact information to the city.

They zeroed in on three Austin neighborhoods -- in North, Central and southeast Austin.

The council indefinitely postponed plans for all three areas of the city.

Seaholm design competition

The old Seaholm Power Plant used to be a functional piece of a power plant. Soon, it could be a destination on Lady Bird Lake.

Designers have been busy dreaming up possibilities for the Seaholm Intake facility.

They recently submitted their visions in a design competition.Now, the city manager will work with the Urban Land Institute to find the design that best fits Austin's vision and goals.

Then the city is planning to open the project up for bids in January.

The project will go along with redevelopment of the old Seaholm Power Plant just across Cesar Chavez.

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