Austin-based GrubTubs called to court by Buda officials for ‘odor nuisance’

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GrubTubs, a company that specializes in composting leftover food from restaurants, is planning to show up to court in August to respond to the city of Buda, which has filed a criminal case against the company for violating the city’s odor nuisance ordinance.

“We’re still in the middle of deciding our strategy on the whole situation,” said Peter Black, the chief operating officer for the Austin-based startup company.

GrubTubs composts leftover food collected from restaurants and grocery stores and turns it into animal feed, according to the company’s website.

Black told Community Impact Newspaper that the company was under the impression that it was in the middle of working with the city to determine what GrubTubs could do to address residents’ complaints.

City officials said residents had made multiple complaints to code enforcement about a property, located 761 Old Black Colony Road, used by the company as a farming and composting site. The farm is located just outside city limits in Buda’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.

The city responded by issuing eight citations for violating the odor ordinance, which passed May 7 at a City Council meeting. At that meeting, a number of residents of the Whispering Hollow neighborhood spoke during the public comment period about how odor emanating from the GrubTubs property was affecting their daily lives.

In short, the new ordinance expands the city’s jurisdiction of its odor nuisance code to 5,000 feet past city limits.

City Attorney George Hyde said the purpose of the ordinance was to protect residents who live along the borders of the city, adding that the move is in line with Texas law.

“We provided them notice of those eight complaints and provided them an opportunity to meet with the city on its new law to get them into compliance,” Hyde said.

Black confirmed that Buda city officials had reached out and met with GrubTubs representatives. He said the company submitted its mitigation plan to comply with the city’s odor ordinance about two weeks after they had met with city officials regarding odor violations.

“When the city invited us to speak with the city lawyer and county inspector, absolutely—we welcome those kinds of conversations,” Black said. “We want to be a good neighbor.”

Hyde acknowledged that the city had received a response from GrubTubs but added that the city received more complaints around the time that the company communicated its future plans.

“That was almost at the same time period,” Hyde said. “Maybe a week either way, that’s when the city just got pounded with public complaints with regard to their operation.”

Hyde said this led to the city taking the next step in prosecuting potential violations in municipal court. He said the goal of the city’s code enforcement, ultimately, is compliance rather than enforcement.

“Unless it becomes a significant issue, or there starts to be a municipal prosecution, my office wouldn’t normally even be involved,” he said.

Black said GrubTubs is planning on showing up in court on Aug. 7, and is in the process of seeking legal counsel.

He added that the company had been expecting the city to respond to its list of proposals for addressing odor violations when the city issued its order to appear in court.

“It’s a little surprising that we didn’t get feedback on our plan before we were pulled into court,” Black said. “Honestly, that’s my knee-jerk reaction.”

Buda published a July 19 press release stating that the city had taken the “next action against” the company for the violation of its odor nuisance ordinance.

“The city’s code enforcement officer has filed a case in municipal court regarding the infractions,” the press release read. “The business is also on the code enforcement officer’s daily enforcement route.”

According to the release, the city attorney’s office is in the middle of reviewing a ”Continuous Quality Improvement Report” that was submitted by the company.

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