Frisco Tried to Ban Home Bakeries, Despite Texas' New Cottage Food Law
As previously noted on several occasions, last year the Texas legislature passed a law that allows home bakers to legally sell their goods from home under some very specific guidelines (Senate Bill 81). And each time I type out another article about this issue, I think, "Well, that should do it." It's pretty cut and dry: It's cake and now it's law. And you can't really argue with cake.
But ridiculous issues keep popping up. Like when Plano made an infomercial warning of the hazards of buying from a home baker.
Now we've learned that the City of Frisco created a zoning ordinance banning cottage bakeries. Last week KXAS ran a story about a home baker who received a notice from the city that she was in violation of the ordinance. Which raises an important question: What do so many people have against cake?
Judith McGeary, an attorney for the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, addressed the matter on the Texas Baker's Bill FB page: "The cottage foods bill was silent on the issue of zoning. Local law applies on the issue of zoning in the absence of state law to the contrary. This does not mean that what the City of Frisco did was proper or legal, merely that the cottage foods bill doesn't prevent it."
Senator Jane Nelson, whose district includes Frisco, sponsored SB 81 and is watching things closely.
"My intent with SB 81 was to make it easier for home cooks to sell their products," wrote Nelson in a statement, "free from the type of inspections, fees and public health requirements that apply to large-scale food wholesalers. It applies specifically to county public health authorities -- not city zoning ordinances that apply to home-based businesses."
Senator Nelson went onto imply there may be tweaks in the future, "We are monitoring the implementation of SB 81 statewide and look further into this issue as we prepare for the next legislative session."
In the meantime, bakers in Frisco didn't sit idly by. (Bakers never do.)
Turns out that once a month the mayor of Frisco holds a "Coffee with the Mayor" breakfast, which happened to be this past Monday. Several bakers showed up to chat about the city ordinance (surely with baked goods in tow). And they were able to get a small bit of resolution, for the time being at least.
Since the meeting, the City of Frisco has told Jamie Medley, of the NBC 5 piece, that she can continue baking her gluten-free goods.
"We gave her a courtesy notice," said Greg Carr with the City of Frisco code compliance department. "And she can continue baking until we either find a resolution or move forward with maybe changing the ordinance."
Pressed on why Frisco added home bakers to their city-zoning ordinance last year, Carr couldn't pinpoint an exact reason, "We just update different ordinances on a regular basis. It was a five-minute discussion and was added with a bunch of other stuff."
The ordinance may have been a result of other citizens that have run small markets out of their homes.
"In addition to the cottage food ordinance," Carr said, "we don't allow people to sell other things from their houses. And for zoning we can't just niche out a certain type of business. We've had people basically set up little department stores in their garages with people coming and going all the time. "
There's also an inspection issue. SB 81 specifically reads that local health departments cannot inspect these home kitchens, which apparently works their nerves as health inspectors.
"There's just no way for our people to get in," said Carr. "If there was some form of oversight where we could just look at it, then we'd feel better about it."
Carr and other officials with the City of Frisco said Medley and those at the meeting probably follow sanitary guidelines, but worry that's not the case for everyone -- pointing to the lowest common denominator.
Kelley Masters, who has fought long and hard for Texas home bakers, hopes Frisco has a change of heart.
"I hope the city of Frisco moves quickly to revise their ordinance," Master said, "allowing the Medleys, and other cottage food operators like them, to operate peacefully. The Medleys were not singled out because of any kind of a complaint; they were targeted because they had received a positive write-up in a local magazine."
She adds that she hopes any future complaints about any particular cottage food operator are worked out on an individual basis rather than a complete ban.
For now, though, Frisco is sitting tight.
"We're not shutting them down," Carr said. "We're early in the process and if we can't come to some sort of solution then we'll bump it up to a higher priority. And if we need to look at making some change in the ordinance, we'll look at that."