Monday, August 18, 2014

It's Time to Preserve Long's Gardens [Speak Up!]

by Osman Parvez

The Hawthorn Community Garden is located on Long's Farm
Long’s Gardens is a third generation, family owned and operated iris farm in the middle of Boulder.   This near 100 year old farm is situated on about 25 acres at 3480 Broadway, essentially the heart of Boulder.  It's also home to Growing Gardens, a Boulder-based non-profit organization whose mission is to enrich the lives of our community through sustainable urban agriculture (Full disclosure:  I serve on the Board for Growing Gardens)

City Council has a public discussion scheduled for tomorrow at 6pm on preservation efforts at Long's Gardens.  Please take the opportunity to learn and add your opinion. 

Here's a letter from Peter Mayer and Amanda Bickel (emphasis added): 

Dear Friends of Long's Gardens,

City Council Member Mary Young has requested that City Council discuss preservation of the 25-acre Long's Gardens at the regular meeting on Tues. 8/19, which begins at 6:00 pm. This is an important moment to remind City Council and city staff about how essential this property is to the community.

If you haven't written a letter to Council recently about Long's, please write them soon to remind them how important this property is to you and that you want the City to negotiate with the Long Family to preserve the land.  The Council email:   council@bouldercolorado.gov

Please attend the Council meeting on Tuesday, August 19 at 6:00 and speak to the Council for a couple of minutes about what the property means to you.  Encourage the City to negotiate with the Long Family for a conservation easement to protect the land.

Both the City Council and the Long Family have indicated that they wish to have this land preserved in perpetuity for agriculture and agricultural education projects such as the Long's iris gardens, the Hawthorn community gardens, Cultiva youth programs, the Children's Peace Garden, and Mountain Flower Goat Dairy. However, there has not thus far been effective negotiation on how to do this.  The Long Family offered to sell the City a conservation easement a couple of years ago.  The City responded by conducting an appraisal and then, in August 2013, offered to buy the property outright. The Longs had previously indicated that they did not wish to sell the land, and they politely rejected that offer:  They do not believe sale to the City will ensure the land is preserved in agriculture, which is, for them, the central goal.   There was no progress for over a year.  

There is now potential to move the discussion forward.  The family will be sitting down with the City Attorney in the next week to discuss the issue further.  Whether or not negotiations move forward will depend in large part on whether there is any flexibility in negotiating a creative solution.  We believe a good faith negotiation could achieve a solution that works well for the City, the Long Family, and the citizens of Boulder.

The meeting on Tuesday could be important because some City staff appear unwilling to negotiate for anything except an outright purchase and have sought Council authority for this position. This appears to go against the previously stated position of the Council from the 6/18/2013 meeting at which Staff was instructed to negotiate with the Long Family, even though the Family had indicated it was not interested in selling the property outright.

In recent meeting minutes, ambiguous language was used to describe City Attorney Tom Carr's negotiating instructions:  From the Aug. 4 Council Agenda Committee (CAC) meeting minutes:

City Attorney Carr asked that the City Attorney’s Office be given the chance to continue negotiations as directed by the council. He described the challenges of conservation easement enforcement that the city faced in other instances and noted that the only way to ensure that the Long’s property would be limited to agriculture use would be if the city purchased the property. CAC agreed that was the appropriate course of action to take. 

The minutes are concerning because in reality there are numerous mechanisms available to the City for preserving the land in agriculture and the CAC is not purposed to give formal direction to staff.  Mary Young has requested the whole Council weigh in on the direction the City should take regarding Long's Gardens at the meeting on Tuesday, which is why we think it is important to once again make our voices heard.

If you can come to the Tuesday, August 19 Council Meeting:
The meeting is scheduled for 6:00 pm in Council Chambers, 1777 Broadway.
Longs will likely come up under Matters from Mayor and Members of Council (Agenda Item #8).  This may be late in the evening.  However, there is also an opportunity to speak near the beginning of the meeting during the 45 minute Open Comment period (agenda Item #2), as well as at the end of "Matters".  If you wish to speak during Open Comment, please sign up on line here as soon as possible:

http://www.eventbrite.com/org/782576959?s=12605786

You will have 2-3 minutes to speak.  

If you don't wish to speak but wish to show support, please come anyway.  We will likely be looking for people who are willing to pool (give) time to other speakers.  We encourage you to wear Long's T's or other green shirts, and, we will ask for supporters to stand up during the comment period.
Please let us know if you are planning to come, as it will help us to organize and prepare (peter.mayer@waterdm.com).

Key points to bring up in public comments are:
Please proceed with negotiations to preserve Long's Garden's for agriculture and agricultural education.

All options for conserving the property should be on the table including conservation easement, open space designation, city charter amendment, or other mechanism for retiring the development rights, among others.  

We are out of state at the moment and will not be able to attend the Tuesday meeting, but we will contact members directly in the coming days.  If you are able to speak at the City Council meeting at 6 p.m. on Tues. 8/19, it would be very much appreciated.

Thanks for your continued support.  We remain optimistic that this land can and will be preserved for agriculture.

Warm regards,

Peter Mayer and Amanda Bickel

Additional Reading
Boulder Reopens Talks on Preserving Long's Garden
Strengthening Urban Agriculture in Boulder
Preserve Long's Garden
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