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updated: 6/8/2012 5:24 PM

Lombard may allow gardening on vacant properties

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An idea of turning vacant properties in Lombard into temporary public garden plots took its first step forward this week.

The village board Thursday night gave preliminary approval to an amendment to the municipal code that would allow native plants, flowers, fruits or vegetables taller than eight inches to be grown on vacant sites.

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The idea would help beautify empty land until it is developed; it also could take hold because of Lombard resident's mounting interest in locally grown food, community-supported agriculture and going green in general, Trustee Laura Fitzpatrick said.

"An interest in local, fresh food seems to be picking up a lot of steam and a lot of popularity in town lately," she said.

The change that gained preliminary approval Thursday applies only to privately owned vacant properties and comes with a few regulations.

Before planting anything, the prospective gardener would have to provide a landscape plan to the department of community development showing what species of vegetation would be planted. Plantings also would have to be kept within the property's front, side and corner side yard setbacks.

The gardening idea could be expanded in other ways. For example, Fitzpatrick said, the village could possibly work with the Lombard Park District in the future to allow residents to rent plots on village-owned vacant land and grow vegetables, fruits and flowers there, she said.

The park district rents almost 90 garden plots each year at Madison Meadow Park. Executive Director Paul Friedrichs said about 80 percent of gardeners return to rent a plot each year, but there is not a waiting list for gardening space.

Fitzpatrick said possible collaboration between the village and park district would allow garden plots to be available in neighborhoods other than the Madison Meadow Park area. Such collaboration would require an intergovernmental agreement, which has not yet been discussed between the two parties.

The public has not made requests to the park district for more garden plot space, but Friedrichs said greater supply could increase demand.

"If there was a need and we could help out, I'm sure we would look into it," Friedrichs said about vacant lot garden plots.

The village board likely will give final approval to the municipal code change allowing private owners of vacant property to garden on their land at its next meeting June 21.

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