South Windsor Reconsiders Deming Street Garden Amid Neighbors’ Opposition – Hartford Courant
SOUTH WINDSOR — In response to neighbors’ complaints, town officials are re-evaluating a plan to turn the vacant Jones Farm Property on Deming Street into a community garden.
The town purchased the 10.92-acre property in November 2010 with open space bond money. The proposal suggests that the location be used as a community garden, comprised of 72 20-by-40-foot plots and six raised, handicapped-accessible planting beds.
The new plots would be funded by a combination of in-house efforts by the parks and recreation department, contributions by South Windsor Food Alliance volunteers and a $20,000 grant from the state Department of Agriculture’s Farmland Restoration Program.
Parks and Recreation Director Raymond Favreau said the location is ideal, since the land was previously used for farming. Additionally, water can easily be routed to the site from a nearby water main.
He said while there are other available open spaces in town, many of those are already earmarked for future plans and lack the convenience and feasibility of the Deming Street property.
“This was a blessing because it was already a farm,” Favreau said. “It was a natural fit with an easy cost.”
But earlier this month, neighbors in the area told the town council that the size of the garden would increase traffic on their street and bring strangers to the neighborhood, which would, in turn, put children at risk.
“The world we live in is a dangerous place. Right now, my kids can go outside and play in our yard. They don’t need to worry about strangers,” said Amy Brown, whose property abuts the land. “If you create a driveway with a parking lot, we don’t know who those people are. … It’s just not safe. It’s a residential area. It’s a great concept, but it’s not the right location. Our neighborhood would take all of the burden with no benefit.”
Lee Santos, who lives across the street, said, “One of the reasons I purchased [my] property was because of that beautiful pristine land. Deming Street is one of the last country roads in town. It can’t support this kind of traffic.”
South Windsor’s existing 61-plot community garden on Avery Street is filled to capacity and has an 18-person waiting list, Favreau said.
Residents pay $20 for their plots, which helps cover the cost of water that is available on site. Favreau added that each spring, Parks and Recreation crews plow the site and provide compost.
William Hart was one of two people tending gardens on Avery Street just after 1 pm on a Wednesday. A South Windsor resident for 39 years, he has owned a plot in the Avery Street garden for the last five years.
Hart said he initially had concerns about the garden being close to the road and was worried that vandals might steal his crops, but there have never been any issues.
“Most of the people up here are retired,” he said. “Everybody kind of shares. Nobody drives very fast, and there are no issues with safety.”
He said traffic is also not an issue, as it’s rare that more than three cars are at the garden at one time. And while the wind does blow empty plastic planters around in the early spring when people are starting their gardens, there isn’t much trash the rest of the year, he added.
“If there’s a waiting list [for Avery Street]”I think another garden is a good idea,” Hart said.
Judy Barone has also been gardening on Avery Street for five years, said her fellow gardeners are friendly and helpful to one another. She said as far as she is aware, there have never been any complaints from neighbors in the area.
“I don’t think [another community garden in town] is a bad idea,” Barone said. “I don’t see how it could hurt anybody. Everybody minds their own business.”
“I think it’s a very nice, peaceful addition to anybody’s area,” she said.
Police Chief Matthew Reed said no formal complaints have been filed with the police department regarding the existing garden.
Town manager Matthew Galligan said he was surprised to learn of the opposition to the plan.
“In the 20 years I’ve been here, there’s never been an incident of any kind” at Avery Street, he said.
“I mean, we’re growing plants,” Galligan said. “There are a lot of things that make up a healthy community — walking trails, bike trails, gardens. … Hopefully, we can work with the neighbors.”
Mayor Saud Anwar said the neighborhood’s opposition compels him to vote against the proposal.
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“The concept was a good concept, but we need to respect the views of the people in the community,” Anwar said. “For every one person that supports it, there’s 10 people who don’t. We need to look at alternatives.”
Favreau said, “We want to be good neighbors while providing a service to the town. That’s all we want to do.”
The town council tabled its vote until June 15 on whether to send the project to the Planning and Zoning Commission for a determination of whether the project is consistent with the town’s zoning regulations.
Favreau said a committee of people involved with the project, including representatives from the South Windsor FOOD Alliance, the town’s open space task force, planning and parks and recreation department, have asked the council to take up the matter at its next meeting.
He said if the referral, which is a preliminary step in any project process, is approved, the community will have ample opportunities to express their opinions before any official decision is made.
“The committee felt that the project should still be pursued and that we shouldn’t put brakes on and stop completely at this juncture, but let it go through the normal process,” Favreau said. “Why stall it at this point when it’s just going through the normal project process? We felt it was premature to pull the plug.”
“There’s no harm in sending it to [Planning and Zoning],” he said. “It’s not a final decision.”