Updated 09/20/2012 06:42 AM
Common Council votes on community garden site
A plan to sell the land Ithaca's Community Gardens sits on has raised controversy in the community. On Wednesday, the resolution was brought before the city. YNN's Tamara Lindstrom has more on the future of the coveted land.
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ITHACA, N.Y. -- It's just over two acres, but the city owned land under Ithaca's Community Gardens has become a prime piece of real estate, fiercely sought after by both gardeners and developers who say they need the plot in order to build.
"I think that it will be a great move toward sustainable development, locally-oriented development. I think the city has to make a choice, given that we have a three and a half million dollar budget shortfall," said Wade Wykstra, Consultant to Developers Aeon, Building Links and Templar, LLC.
The owners of the adjacent eight acres of undeveloped land, known as Carpenter Business Park, purchased their plot 10 years ago and are looking to act on an option to acquire the neighboring gardens land. But they can only do that if the city decides not to extend Project Growing Hope's 30 year lease.
On Wednesday evening, the Common Council voted nine to one to allow the gardens to stay in their current location, at least for now.
"The good news for the gardeners is that there's still a commitment to negotiate a new lease, with conditions," said Dan Hoffman, attorney for Project Growing Hope.
"Council decided to renew the community gardens' lease, and to allow the community gardens to stay until such a time as a development is actually ready to go, which means they've passed site plan approval, and they've gotten an easement to connect to Third Street," said Ithaca mayor Svante Myrick.
The developers have suggested an alternative location for the gardens, near Cass Park.
"It's non-park land, but it's owned by the city," Wykstra said. "It's commercially valueless. And so, at least in my opinion, is more appropriate toward urban gardening. I mean, that's always been the challenge of urban gardening is land use."
But gardeners say it's not going to work.
"There is some city-owned land adjacent to Cass Park. I know that it's currently wooded. It doesn't look anything like a garden," Hoffman said. "I also know that it's quite a distance from where many of the people who use the community gardens are now. So walking to that site carrying tools is less attractive."
While both sides are far from meeting in the middle, the mayor says he's confident a solution can be worked out that allows for new development and lets community gardening thrive.
The developers declined to comment on the vote at this time. They have not yet disclosed details of the project they hope to build.