Austin City Manager Marc Ott made the right move tapping former state District Judge Bob Perkins to mediate issues regarding the city’s proposal to expand urban farms. Perkins brings independence, heft and cultural competence to zoning matters that also touch on race and class.
At the core of the controversy is the integrity of Austin’s single-family zoning ordinance, which increasingly has come under attack by well-meaning and commercially driven interests that have set up their businesses in residential neighborhoods. The proliferation of urban farms and “stealth dorms” should be added to that list along with short-term rentals. They might not rise to the level of major business or industry, but their potential for damage exceeds by far the typical home business, which operates behind closed doors with little, if any, disruption to a neighborhood.
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