ROCKFORD - A city council committee has recommended going ahead and leasing a piece of property to a neighborhood group for a community garden, rather than outright giving it to them.
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Most aldermen think the concept is a good one. Ald. John Beck (R-13th Ward) is in agreement with that.
"For the large part the neighborhoods take pride in them and a lot of volunteers come out and help grow it," said Beck.
However not all groups take pride in their community garden - much like a community garden located at State & Foster Streets. The garden boxes are overgrown with weeds, no plants, nothing there.
"Dirt was piled up and then these wooden cartons and tables and stuff were sitting there and no one's done anything with it," said Ald. Linda McNeely (D-12th Ward).
It's part of the reason the Orchid Neighborhood Group's community garden was approved to be leased instead of given to them to own.
"The whole idea behind the lease, as opposed to giving the property to the neighborhood organization is that it's an organization - they come and go," said Beck.
But McNeely said she thinks the garden shouldn't be outright given to a non-profit group, but rather it should be sold and taxed.
"The taxpayer should be able to reap some of that if not all of it and one way that it could be reaped is by outright sale," said McNeely.
But Ald. Beck said that's the point of the lease; if there's a group interested in purchasing the property then after the lease is up it can be offered to the potential purchaser. Beck adds that the lots in question have been vacant for years and no one's offered to purchase them.
"The only thing the city has not done is to actively solicit this property to the adjoining property owners," said Beck.
McNeely says one of her beefs with community gardens, especially the one in her ward, is that it's right across the street from a west side grocery store she said sells fruits and vegetables.
"It shouldn't compete with the community garden," said McNeely. "The community garden should not be across the street from one of the very few businesses that we have in this ward."
"We should ban community gardens because they may compete with a local business?" questioned Ald. Beck. "That doesn't make sense - maybe we should ban people from growing gardens on their own private property too."
The leasing provision has only made it out of the Codes and Regulations Committee. It still needs to be approved by the full city council - which it's expected to do.