Locavore breakfast operation Selma Cafe in violation of city zoning codes; future uncertain
Editor's note: This story has been updated to add comment from Gottlieb.
The future of Selma Cafe, a weekly gathering of volunteers who prepare breakfast in a home on Ann Arbor's west side to raise money for local farmers, is in doubt after being notified it's in violation of city zoning ordinances, the Ann Arbor Chronicle reports.
A letter dated April 3 from city planning manager Wendy Rampson to Selma Cafe co-founder Lisa Gottlieb says the operation violates city zoning codes defining acceptable "home occupations," or nonresidential uses of a home. Specifically, the city alleges that Selma routinely has more people involved in the weekly operation than allowed, that the number of daily vehicle trips exceeds the permitted 10; and that the need for parking is not being met.
"To resolve this violation, you may discontinue your home occupation or make changes to bring it into compliance with the performance standards, which would substantially reduce the scale of the activity," Rampson wrote. "Another way you may resolve the violation is to relocate these events to an appropriately-zoned location that allows for assembly use and/or a commercial kitchen."
Rampson added, "I'd like to emphasize that the City has received numerous complaints from a variety of sources, including neighbors and parents of Eberwhite students, all of whom are concerned about the concentrated traffic and parking issues that result from SELMA Cafe's operation."
Gottleib has until Monday to respond with a timetable for discontinuing the cafe operation. Reached by phone, Gottlieb told AnnArbor.com she would be contacting the city Monday but said "I'm not sure" when asked what her response would be.
"Selma Cafe is closed right now," Gottlieb said.
Selma Cafe marked its fourth anniversary in February and draws anywhere between 150 and 200 guests for its Friday breakfast fundraisers, Gottlieb said. She said she is considering finding an alternate location to hold the events.
"The feedback I'm getting is people are very sad that we're closing and people are sharing how much Selma Cafe has meant to them over the years," she said. "I think we have done something really unusual and unique in our community. I think we've had an incredible run and we've made immeasurable changes in the local foodshed and in supporting local farmers and artisan food preparers. I'm really proud of that."
But Gottlieb said she's not resigned to having to remain closed.
"I don't know that I'm necessarily resigned to anything at this point. I'm a pretty positive person," she said.
Gottlieb told the Chronicle she has resolved the issue of parking congestion and is seeking alternate locations for continuing the weekly breakfasts. A message posted on Selma Cafe's website says "We are temporarily closed."
Separately, a nonprofit called Food System Economic Partnership elected to end its fiscal sponsorship of Selma Cafe over a disagreement with Gottlieb, who has been pursuing making the cafe an independent nonprofit.
For more, read the Chronicle story. Below is a video about Selma Cafe made by AnnArbor.com last year.