The fight to keep Springdale Farm operational is officially over following the Austin City Council’s vote last night to approve the request from farm owners Glenn and Paula Foore for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP). Previously denied by the Planning Commission, the City Council voted 10-1 to approve Springdale’s request, after hearing passionate testimony from both sides.
With #WeAreSpringdale trending on social media, State Representative Eddie Rodriguez and a slew of restaurant owners and staffers voiced their support for the farm, which produces over 3,800 pounds of produce per year for more than 50 local dining spots. The long list of vocal restaurants included Eastside Pies, LaV, Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, La Condesa, the Carillon, Epicerie, Vox Table, Trace, Weather Up, Congress, Farmhouse Delivery, Lenoir, Tipsy Texan, Cafe Josie, Bufalina, Texas French Bread, The Hightower, Franklin BBQ, Eden East, Odd Duck, and Wink. "This was a shot in the arm that’s definitely needed," said Swift’s Attic executive chef Zack Northcutt, who attended the meeting. "We need to support all these people more than anything."
Under the urban farm code, urban farms in single-family zoning can host events with more than 50 people six times a year after receiving a Temporary Use Permit. The commercially-zoned Springdale did not fall under this provision. Instead, the farm was required to apply for a CUP in order to continue hosting events, which make up 20% of the farm’s revenue, including weddings, educational events, and nonprofit fundraisers, with specific restrictions on the number of events, noise levels, hours of operations, parking, etc.
Council member Pio Renteria of District 3, where the farm is located, was in favor of the permit. He added that his support for urban farms secured his election, and he would be voting in line with his constituents. Most recently, Renteria attempted to spearhead the push to regulate barbecue smoke.
District 4’s Gregorio Casar voted to approve the CUP based on the facts of the specific zoning case at hand, but urged those in the chamber to compromise and continue a dialogue on gentrification and lack of affordable housing. He said:
"People have brought this up as a cause of gentrification. I don’t see it as much of a cause compared to the ruthless global real estate market and our failed urban planning principles and racist institutions that we still deal with every single day. But, I think the folks that have brought this up as a symbol or as a symptom of that kind of gentrification do need to be listened to and should be listened to … I appreciate the conversation this has begun, but it’s got to be about more than one small zoning case."
For Eden East, the farm-to-table trailer located on the grounds, this means it can continue to prepare food utilizing the farm’s resources and aesthetic. In an email to Eater prior to the council meeting, executive chef and owner Sonya Cote expressed concern for the future of the restaurant. She wrote,
"Since Eden East is a food truck and Springdale Farm is a commercial property, we are legally allowed to be there, since a food truck is not considered ‘an event.’ The properties surrounding us are also zoned commercially, including the huge police dispatch station directly across the street. Plus, we have a large amount of public street parking that we share with other commercial properties. Ultimately, if Springdale is denied by council, and the farmers are no longer able to grow our food and pay the rising costs to own a commercial property in East Austin, and have to sell the property, we would obviously have to close our doors."
The Foores can also rest easier and focus on the non-profit branch of the farm, the Springdale Center for Urban Agriculture, where the mission is to promote sustainable agriculture in urban areas while educating and fostering community. "We’re not ready to retire," said Paula. "We’re trying to preserve this farm and what this farm would become without us is another development. If we go away, what will be here? No one’s going to farm this." She added, "Only crazy people are farmers."
– Anna Toon