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Batavia aldermen debate future of community garden

BATAVIA – Batavia aldermen are debating whether to continue to allow the Batavia Community Garden to operate on a vacant piece of land that is not currently on the tax rolls.

Aldermen at Tuesday’s Joint Committee of the Whole meeting discussed the possible extension of an easement agreement until Dec. 31, 2017, so the garden – at the corner of Main and South Water streets in downtown Batavia – could continue. In April 2010, Batavia aldermen approved an easement agreement to get the garden started.

Batavia City Administrator Bill McGrath told aldermen the produce from the garden has been given to the Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry.

Batavia Enterprises is a member of River Island Partnership, which owns the property the Batavia Community Garden sits on.

“The long-term goal is to locate a larger area in which to site not only the community garden, but smaller plots for individuals or families,” McGrath said.

While Batavia 1st Ward Alderman Garran Sparks said he appreciated the efforts of the Batavia Community Garden, he objected to the fact that the property is not on the tax rolls.

“It’s taking $5,000 away from the tax coffers,” Sparks said. “That piece of property should be on the tax rolls.”

Sparks said the land currently isn’t generating any taxes after generating $5,000 in taxes two years ago.

“I don’t want to see the community garden die,” he said. “But I don’t want to be approving a community garden to take money off the tax bills.”

Third Ward Alderman Dan Chanzit said he supported Sparks’ sentiment.

“But we have bigger fish to fry,” Chanzit said. “I see the Batavia Community Garden as a vibrant act of volunteerism.”

Sixth Ward Alderman Nicholas Cerone said he would like to see some sort of deal worked out.

“The community garden would love to move and we would like to see that land on the tax rolls,” Cerone said. “It is a timing issue. Let’s not push them. Let us support their decision to grow.”

McGrath said he plans to talk to Batavia Enterprises officials more about the issue.

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