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updated: 1/6/2014 10:33 PM

Batavia Community Garden gets 1-year lease

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The Batavia Community Garden gets to stay on a lot at Main and Water streets another year for sure, but not for another four years as originally had been proposed.

The city council approved a one-year, $100 lease for the 1-acre lot on Monday. The city doesn't run the garden but does provide liability insurance for it.

Volunteers started raising produce there in 2010; they donate the food to the Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry. They don't use the whole lot.

Alderman Garran Sparks led the effort against the lease renewal. He was upset to discover in November that the land's assessment designation had been changed from residential to agricultural. Doing so meant a change in how the property's taxable value was determined, because agricultural land is assessed on several aspects, including the viability of the soil and what it produces. With the change, Batavia Enterprises Inc., part of the partnership that owns the lot, went from paying about $5,000 in property tax annually to nothing last year.

Sparks suggested the Community Garden find another site, but on already tax-exempt land.

He also reiterated Monday that the garden is a worthwhile thing.

"Nobody is looking to kick the community garden out of town," he said.

Alderman Michael O'Brien noted there has been talk of putting it on Batavia Park District land, but park district officials have said that could take up to seven years.

"The Community Garden is a good endeavor," O'Brien said. "I think five to seven years off into the future is kind of out there."

Mayor Jeff Schielke said he may discuss another proposed site with the joint committees of the whole, which are set to meet at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. The committee will also discuss a proposed new-home subdivision on McKee Street west of Randall Road, and a December memo about the garden mentions the possibility of a site being included in that development.

Alderman Lucy Thelin Atac said the city should be careful not to do anything that would dampen the enthusiasm of the volunteer gardeners.

The vote Monday was 11-0, with Alderman Steve Vasilion abstaining because he does architectural work for Batavia Enterprises Inc. Alderman Kyle Hohmann and Jamie Saam were absent.

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