Smell from food repurposing facility drives expanded odor ordinance in Buda

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Complaints about smells coming the operations of an Austin-based startup company were the inspiration for an odor ordinance passed by Buda City Council on May 7. Though Buda already has an odor ordinance, the new one expands the boundaries of the coverage area to the extraterritorial jurisdiction.

The property in question is used as a composting site by Grub Tubs, a company that uses food waste from restaurants to produce grubs, that are then harvested as animal feed.

Council Member Ray Bryant, who lives near the facility said that the smell from the Grub Tubs facility is overwhelming.

“The consistent phrase that has become almost ubiquitous in our area is: what is that smell?”

Several residents of the Whispering Hollow neighborhood spoke during the public hearing to express the degree to which the facility has interfered with quality of life, saying that at times they did not want to be in their own backyards or even collect their mail.

The ordinance prohibits “[a]ny unreasonably noxious, unpleasant, or strong odor, which causes material distress, discomfort or injury to persons of ordinary sensibilities and extends beyond the boundaries of the property on which such odor originates” or “[a]ny odor of such character, strength and continued duration which substantially interferes with the comfortable enjoyment of private homes by persons of ordinary sensibilities.”

The council approved the ordinance with only one dissenting vote from Council Member Evan Ture, who said several times that he empathizes with residents and wants the city to take action to remedy the situation but felt the ordinance as it was written—as well as the relatively small $500 fine it would impose—would not stop Grub Tubs and might later pit neighbors against neighbors.

“What I don’t want to do is pass an ordinance for the rest of the city to have composting as an offensive odor,” Ture said.

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  1. So just to be clear, the horrendous smell – just across the street from the new Buda city building – at the park sidewalk that some idiot installed instead of a bridge the blocks up the overflow for the Bradfield lake is fine but when we’re actually trying to do something good for the community by not throwing away waste food it’s a problem because some politician lives close by, and it sparks a new ordinance with no delay?
    Get a damn clue!!! Stop picking on a startup Green company and maybe fix the damn traffic nightmare at the only intersection in this podunk downtown so we can all get to and from work at our REAL jobs!

    • Shane, Whispering Hollow has over 500 homes within “smell shot” of the stench, I challenge you to wash your car in my driveway or play with your kids in my cul-de-sac and breathe in the sweet smell of dead carcass rubbed in sweaty crotch and you might change your tune a little bit. This has nothing to do with politicians, they have have a code to adhere by, the stench flowing out of that business is well beyond what was described as common business practice when they moved in there, so we were dooped.

    • I assume that Shane doesn’t live in Whispering Hollow or anywhere near the vicinity. Just to be clear, WH residents pay taxes just as you have. We also actually have “real jobs” and children who like to play outside. Not one person complained about it being a green business or start up. It may be beneficial for you to take time out of your “real job” and come hang out at the parks in our neighborhood. From your comment, I assume you live on top of a hill since you have no idea of what’s going on as well as the smell. We’re all for supporting the newbies, save the environment, and the actual right to enjoy the properties that we pay for. I suggest you run for election to eliminate any “idiot” on the board.

    • This was a concern raised by several residents calling and writing nonstop to the city for the smell. I commend the council member by trying to take their concerns seriously.

    • Dave still hollow I live four house down from the Council member He is absolutely right you cannot enjoy the outside. On a good weather day you can not even open up the windows to get some fresh air in the house. They make air scrubbers that will mask the smell of a pig farm so why can’t they install something to help out with the smell. It sucks when your kids would like to go outside and play but can’t because of the smell and health reasons. Feel free to come to the area at 5:00 o’clock smell for yourself.

  2. Candee Edwards

    This feels like it was only brought up because a council member doesn’t like it! This is not the way government should be run. I am taking note Ray Bryant – I’d be voting you OUT for your selfishness. We should absolutely be recycling food waste.

    • Just come smell it, please, so you have an idea. It truly interferes with quality of life and I do not think anyone aware of the issue would buy our home or any other near enough to suffer from it. I was not able to open my windows all Spring or even enjoy time in the backyard at all on any nice day. “Fresh air” isn’t an option now, and it’s no small annoyance.

    • It was brought up because of all of the homeowners being forced into our homes due to the nauseating smell. Holding your breath from your front door to your car should not be the way of life! Keeping our kids and even pets indoors is awful. As we’ve all suggested , come smell for your self, On any day but I especially challenge you to sit in one of our driveways on a hot sunny day. I’ll have a barf bag ready for ya 😉

  3. I will also be voting out Ray Bryant for his selfishness. Just because you don’t agree doing something that is actually helping the environment you want to all of a sudden write up a new ordinance. Do something else with your time and quit using your power to try and prevent this green company from coming up.

    • Candee and Melanie. I invite you to come and play with your children on my street or try to have any kind of outdoor gathering. It’s impossible to want to stay outside for any amount of time when you can’t avoid this smell. I’m all for helping the environment but if you had to smell what we smell everyday right outside our own door you would singing a different tune.

  4. That area is never happy. First the residents run off the farm because of its expansion plans and now they are complaining about what’s replaced it. I agree with Shane. If an odor ordinance was going to be put in place it should have been done a long time ago to stop the smell in the middle of town not now that a neighborhood is whining about a stench near them.

  5. To those who oppose this amendment, I can assure you the adjustment to the original law has an extremely valid purpose. The residents of Whispering Hollow and surrounding homes spoke up regarding a horrendous odor coming from a nearby business and the city listened to our pleas for help. A city counsel that listens to the PEOPLE is exactly what we need. As for the ‘composting’ business that is creating the potentially toxic fumes that deter residents from leaving their home – they are bringing in restaurant waste (completely different than kitchen leftovers) by the truckloads and growing grubs in the rotting trash. They are not covering their waste piles appropriately and breaking numerous other rules. Sure, this is an admirable cause that solves one issue, but the consequences to the residents in the area should be taken into consideration. There are plenty of open spaces to grow grubs in piles of trash AWAY from neighborhoods and residences.

  6. Shelley MacAllister

    The neighbors impacted by the stench from Grub Tubs came together on NextDoor and Facebook to organize and get some help to eliminate this awful smell. When Grub Tubs was inspected, dead animal carcasses were found on burn piles plus other non food items. I personally think the idea behind Grub Tubs is a great one and would be fully supportive of their business, but how can you start a business literally across the street from hundreds of residential properties and not already have controls in place to eliminate the smell? Did the owner just think we’d smile and move on? I really feel for the neighbors who live closer. I can only smell it in my front yard and when I go for a run, bike, or walk my dogs. I have to avoid a third of the neighborhood, including the long almost one mile sidewalk along Old Black Colony that takes you through shaded green spaces without maneuvering between and around cars or I have to grin and bear it until the odor passes. I’m not talking 10 feet, I’m talking a 1/2 mile probably. Do you know how many homes are located in that half mile radius?

    I seriously invite you all to Whispering Hollow’s park. Park your vehicle and head south on the sidewalk to Middle Creek Dr. You’ll pass the Summer Pointe neighborhood, too (which I’m sure is impacted.) Most days you’ll get a huge wave of the stench and then you’ll have a better understanding of what we’re dealing with on the daily. There are also neighbors in and around Cole Springs who’ve reached out on NextDoor with complaints, too. No elitists over here. Just families who want to walk around our neighborhood and use our backyards with the stench. I don’t think that’s asking for too much.

  7. To those who think this is a political issue, please attend City Council meetings and take time away from your work and families to voice your concerns at those meetings. This issue was not brought up by Ray Bryant, he only agreed that it was a problem as DID all other council members but 1. This has nothing to do with City Council looking to create problems for small businesses who are trying to “green” up Texas, but instead has to do with Tax Paying Citizens who live in the communities being affected by this rotting carcas and debris wasteland that was installed seemingly out of spite after the initial plan for the area was challenged wanting to use their homes, yards and communities. We have every right to be able to step outside of our homes without gagging at the smell most days of the week. Many of us live like hermits due to the overwhelming stench that flows freely through our front and back yards, garages, windows (if we dare open them), and neighborhood parks and pool common area.
    I urge everyone who has concerns to gather your allies in your community and take issues to City Council instead of Armchair-Warrioring your causes anonymously through social media.

    Thank you to the Buda City Council for listening to your concerned citizens and taking swift action, even to Evan who vetoed the idea but was understanding of the situation.

    To those who opposed this issue, WHERE WERE YOU WHEN THE HOURS-LONG council meeting was happening? There was not 1 word spoke against the bill by concerned citizens, only by Evan Ture, a City Councilman. So please channel your concerns to FIX problems in our city and leave those who are trying to do so alone.

    We all deserve to “Breathe Easy in Buda”.

    • It’s truly horrible. This morning I had to go in my backyard (I used to want to) and it smelled like someone had openly defecated.

      We are citizens of Buda, same as anyone else. As stated, public land is well within the stench and is available for anyone to visit for themselves, though I suspect many of us would gladly let you sniff to your heart’s content on our properties as well.

      I like the concept of what Grub Tubs is going for, but the execution horrifically misses the mark. If they couldn’t fix it over the last several months when we contacted them directly and privately then it is completely reasonable and expected that the city should be involved.

  8. It’s also important to point out that TCEQ has been involved as well and has cited GrubTubs for several violations. I live in WH, but nowhere near GT and can still smell the stench.

    It’s so bad that several residents have mentioned on our neighborhood Facebook pages that they were able to have their home’s appraisal value reduced by the appraisal district because of the smell.

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Katharine Jose has written about politics, infrastructure, environment, development, natural disasters and other subjects for The New York Observer, Capital New York, and The New York Times, among other publications. She was an editor for several publications in New York City before she moved to Texas, and has a master's degree in urban planning from the University of Texas-Austin.
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