Barking dogs and the smell of decaying chicken parts led to complaints in two neighborhoods late last year that were featured in Statesman Watch. Several months later, there has been some progress in both places, though not enough to totally satisfy the neighbors.
In North Austin, neighbors Olga Campos Benz and Cathy Deslauriers went to court-ordered mediation after Benz filed a complaint about noisy dogs last fall in Austin Municipal Court.
“Things are better,” Benz said. “We are trying to be respectful and cordial and talk with each other first when something comes up instead of calling police or animal control.”
Deslauriers said she still doesn’t know why they ended up in court. “I am going to leave it at that,” she said about mediation at the Dispute Resolution Center of Austin in December. “I am not doing anything illegal, and she knows that. I don’t intend to stop having dogs.”
Benz initially complained to police that Deslauriers, her next-door neighbor, was breeding too many dogs. However, it’s legal to breed dogs for sale, according to the city’s pet trader ordinance. Benz then filed a complaint about the noise.
Benz is now focused on city rules that require her neighbor to keep her dogs 50 feet away from the property line, if she has more than six and they are not young puppies.
“That’s the concern I had because her dogs can be destructive and two broke through our fence right around the time we went to mediation,” she said.
Across town in East Austin, resident Louis Polanco is still upset about the bad smell that was coming from Dorsey Barger’s nearby urban farm in December. Although Barger has a state license to slaughter chickens, the composting of chicken parts was causing a foul odor.
Barger, owner of HausBar Farms, was told by the city that she needed a food permit because she sells the chickens to restaurants. Health department inspectors cited Barger for keeping chicken coops too close to neighboring properties. Barger was also told she needed a state permit for any discharge of materials into storm sewers.
According Barger and city officials, she’s complied with the enclosure violation. “I had to move a section of fence 15 feet,” she said.
She also had to make several modifications to her kitchen, including sealing a concrete floor and putting up no-smoking signs. “We’re waiting for the city to come back to inspect our changes,” she said.
Barger said the third violation, requiring a sewage discharge permit, is unresolved. City officials said they are still working with her to get a permit.
Polanco, who has lived in the area more than 30 years, still can’t believe the city allows chickens to be slaughtered in his neighborhood. “I’m calling my state representative,” he said.
Residents of two Austin neighborhoods report some progress in resolving their disputes.