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Council Approves Further Study, Input Process for Proposed Barbeque Smoke Regulations

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Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News
Brisket at Franklin's. Owner Aaron Franklin visited city council Monday to explain the potential effects of proposed regulations on his, and others', barbecue businesses.

Update Thursday April 2, 2015, 4:20 p.m. At today’s meeting, the Austin City Council voted to start a stakeholder input process on possibly regulating barbecue smoke from restaurants.

Recommendations will be made by the city manager to the Health and Human Services Committee and the Economic Opportunity Committee. After July 31, there will be another chance for public comment.

ORIGINAL STORY from the Austin Monitor: In response to owners of barbecue restaurants worried about their future in Austin, City Council Member Pio Renteria is making some changes to his resolution directing city staff to create rules to regulate smoke from commercial barbecue smokestacks.

Originally, the resolution was written to require restaurants and mobile food vendors who use a wood or charcoal burning stove or grill within 150 feet of properties zoned residential to install exhaust systems called smoke scrubbers or similar devices.

According to the original resolution, the scrubbers would be used to “mitigate the impact of smoke emissions on the health and quality of life of surrounding residents.”

The latest version of the resolution, however, says that the restaurant owner or mobile food vendor who uses a wood or charcoal burning stove within 100 feet of a residential property would be required to mitigate the impact of smoke emissions on residents “by relocating smoke-emitting equipment to exceed (100 feet) or installing smoke-mitigating devices.”

Renteria said Monday that he would also add a section to the resolution requiring any new rules to go before the Planning Commission and to the Council Planning and Neighborhoods Committee, led by Council Member Greg Casar, before coming back to the full Council. He said he wanted to make sure that the resolution goes through a stakeholder process so that both sides would be able to voice their concerns.

Neighbors of La Barbecue on East Cesar Chavez Street and Terry Black’s Barbecue on Barton Springs Road have complained that since the two moved into their neighborhoods, they have been unable to enjoy their yards because of the smoke. La Barbecue is a food trailer, while Terry Black’s is a brick-and-mortar restaurant adjacent to the Bouldin neighborhood. The District 3 Council member said he has received complaints about La Barbecue in particular because it is in his district.

According to the original resolution, the use of scrubbers would “mitigate the impact of smoke emissions on the health and quality of life of surrounding residents.”

One restaurateur who talked to Renteria and his staff is Aaron Franklin, owner of Franklin’s Barbecue, one of the best known of Austin’s many barbecue establishments.

Franklin was making the rounds of Council offices Monday to explain how much it would cost him to put scrubbers on his eight smokestacks. He said the scrubbers would cost $15,000 to $20,000 each, and it would force him to move out of town if the resolution goes through without significant modifications.

Renteria told the Austin Monitor that he was not aiming his resolution at businesses such as Franklin’s, which he said has been a clean cooking operation since 1964. He added that he had heard no complaints about the restaurant.

“This is basically targeted at food trailers that are bringing their pits and parking across the alley from a neighborhood. … It didn’t even cross my mind” that it would apply to long-standing barbecue restaurants that have not generated complaints, Renteria said.

Look for a conversation about this at today’s work session and again Thursday at the Council meeting.

This story comes to us via our City Hall reporting partnership with the Austin Monitor

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