Stobbe Park community garden plan dies at council table

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Owen Sound Council uprooted a group’s proposal to create a community garden at Stobbe Park, despite a committee recommendation to approve the city’s plan and policy identifying the small green space on the west side as a site suitable for this use.

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The Council voted 5-2 to support the Council. Marion Koepke’s motion to reject the proposal of the Stobbe Park Community Garden Collective, which divided the community and, as a city councilor. Carol Merton has said it has led to fractured relationships within the neighborhood.

Councilors who backed the motion on Monday said they did so after hearing from several concerned neighbors, who wrote emails, signed a petition and responded to a city survey.

Concerns included that the garden’s compost would produce odors and attract vermin, and the garden would attract more birds, traffic and “strangers” to the neighborhood. Neighbors also expressed concern over the lack of toilets, potential conflicts between people playing in the park and the garden, and that the garden would take up a third of the park.

Com. John Tamming said information from the neighborhood suggests that 80 to 90 percent of households within a stone’s throw of Stobbe Park oppose the community garden proposal.

“When you hear the phrase community garden you think it’s kinda cool – people go out, plant their tulips, prepare whatever you plant in a garden ready to be planted – but if the community is against a community garden , it just seems to defeat the purpose, ”he said.

Tamming said community gardens would likely be more appropriate in areas where most residents do not have backyards, such as near apartment buildings.

“I am always sensitive to the arguments of NIMBY (not in my garden), but I think in this case it is weird to push for a community garden if there is no community support,” he said. -he declares.

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Koepke’s motion also calls on staff to undertake a comprehensive community garden policy review and remove Stobbe Park from the list of suitable locations. The review will include an opportunity for public feedback.

Tamming said he would like an updated policy to include a neighborhood support threshold that would be required before a garden location can be approved.

Com. Richard Thomas, who opposed Koepke’s motion, said garden developers responded to an invitation and city policy, approved in 2011, encouraging community groups to create community gardens. They also chose a location identified as appropriate in this policy.

“I can only be confident that in 2011 the staff did the same kind of due diligence as they do today by asking people for their comments on this park,” he said.

“Now, yeah, we’ve absolutely received tons and tons of correspondence on this subject. That’s part of what bothers me most about this whole process – the rhetoric coming from neighbors in Stobbe Park regarding this idea of ​​growing vegetables and giving them to OSHaRE by residents in their neighborhood. And we hear things like that will attract vermin, be messy, give up and leave a mess out there that we have to clean up and the one that attracts me the most – will bring strangers to our neighborhood.

“Well, I’m sorry, but when did we become so precious in Owen Sound that we weren’t part of the same community?” “

Eight city-owned properties, including Stobbe Park – a corner green space with a few trees on 5th Avenue A West, one block south of Hillcrest Elementary School – are listed in the Community Gardens policy Owen Sound as available sites for community gardens.

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Many neighbors who opposed the Stobbe Park Community Garden told council they were unaware Stobbe Park was in the policy.

The city received a request on January 6, 2020 from Jake Bates to create a community garden in the park, triggering a council-approved process that is necessary to transform an existing “passive park” into a community garden.

Groups must sign a licensing agreement with the city before a community garden can be established.

A proposed site plan for Stobbe Park called for the garden to be located in the northwest section of the park and include planters and a 10-by-10-foot enclosed area for compost. A tool shed could be added later.

Garden supporters said the project would help ‘build community’, create positive social space, enable people without backyards to grow produce, grow food for OSHaRE and support composting. , healthy food and waste reduction.

At the July 7 community service committee meeting, staff presented a draft licensing agreement between the city and the Stobbe Park Community Garden Collective.

It proposed a three-year term, which was to begin in 2022. The agreement provided that the collective and the city would work to design a composting system that minimizes the release of odors and resists the intrusion of pests. , according to a staff report.

The city would continue to keep the other two-thirds of Stobbe Park as a public park.

The city would strip the sod and turn the soil to prepare it for planting and also spend $ 5,500 to install a water pipe and fire hydrant for the garden. Water consumption would be in kind.

The committee had two options: approve the garden proposal for Stobbe Park or reject the collective’s request.

The committee recommended that council approve the proposal.

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