Community Garden Controversy: More Neighbors Speak Against Promise of Peace Garden in Little Forest Hills Than Previously Reported

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When I was a member of the Urban Acres Co-op, our pickup was at Promise of Peace Garden off East Grand Avenue. That was when I met Elizabeth Dry, the founder of the garden. At that time, the DISD teacher told me that she was looking to relocate the garden to Casa Linda park, which sits between Casa Linda Estates, a railroad track, and Little Forest Hills. That plan went bust, though.

A few weeks ago I heard stirs that the huge piles of mulch that had materialized on Old Gate and Diceman, across the street from White Rock United Methodist Church, were to form the new home for Promise of Peace. While I may not live in Little Forest Hills, many of my friends do, and some live within startling proximity of the garden’s new location.

What residents say is that, although there was a community meeting regarding the garden, far more people disapprove of the garden’s proposed location than have been reported. In fact, they’ve surveyed nearby residents and at least 20 of them are against Promise of Peace moving in. Truly, this controversy has nothing to do with the Methodists giving the Catholics at St. Bernard of Clairvaux a place to park. It has everything to do with a poorly planned community garden right next to an established neighborhood, and the severe lack of communication between the Methodist church and those neighbors. In fact, the homeowners directly adjacent to the garden’s proposed location were never contacted, were never asked for input or permission of any kind. Galling, I know.

For the full response from one neighbor uncomfortably close to the situation, jump.

No one from the garden has ever attempted to contact my husband or myself directly. I went over to the church on April 30 and sought out some answers after the mulch pile began to appear. The assoc. Pastor admitted that someone “should have contacted you as you will be most greatly affected” by the project due to our proximity (directly next to) to the proposed garden. I was told that there would be several raised beds in a u-shape, bringing them very close to my property line and no fence. We have no other direct contact since.

During the last week, we have circulated a letter to over 60 homes in the streets directly adjacent to the parking lots. These letters have asked the residents to vote for or against the garden. There are 20 returned letters have marked that they are against the garden. There has been one positive response. We are hoping that more people will return the letters so we can have a more representative sample of the mood of the directly affected neighbors as a whole.

It seems that there are more than a few disgruntled people as these blog posts seem to keep implying. Sheffie Kadane was also quoted in the Dallas Morning News as saying there are 3-4 people against the garden.

Also from the DMN article:
“Dry, who lives in the neighborhood, introduced the plan to a meeting of the Little Forest Hills Neighborhood Association last month and “the reaction was positive,” says Max Davis, the group’s co-president.

Then came the first signs that Promise of Peace was indeed moving in. A tree-trimming company dumped a load of donated mulch on the parking lot, and Dry added a sign saying “Imagine a Garden.” Several nearby homeowners — Davis puts the number at five — visualized things far worse.”

I was told by someone who was at that meeting that there were about 15 people in attendance, hardly a sampling of the entire neighborhood. And she is against it. Was she considered part of the positive response or are these folks just trying to ignore the dissenters?

The idea of resident only parking has been discussed amongst a few people on my block and the procedure has been researched. So that is definitely a possibility to be addressed in the future. Displacing 60 parking spaces will have an impact on several side streets during the busy holidays, weddings, funerals, bazaars and other events that occur at the churches.

As for calling me a NIMBY, well this is garden will actually be right against my property line. Therefore it will not only be in my BACK Yard, but also my SIDE yard, and my FRONT yard. So far the “garden” has brought a pile of mulch that stinks after rain. When the wind was in the right direction the stench filled my home even with the windows closed. When the wind shifted my neighbor across the street noticed the same stench in her home. The smell lessens after the surface dries out. One of the neighbors has seen the mulch covered with rats in the middle of the night. That is certainly activity that I want to encourage.

I have yet to figure out why anyone would want to try to grow vegetables in the middle of a black parking lot in the Texas summer. I have been told that there is not a plan to fence the area as that would hinder the sense of “community” that the garden is hoping to promote. The people planning this garden do not see the 50+ people that walk/jog through that parking lot every day. It is a major thruway. Some people are on their healthy daily walk, most with dogs, many with multiple dogs. (Is a raised garden bed as good as a fire hydrant? I am sure we will see) I am sure that all of those people are very honest folks that would never take a tomato as they walk past. Like the folks that walk across my yard, right up to the porch to collect the fallen pecans from my trees every autumn. And those that are apparently availing themselves of “free” mulch as the “Do not take mulch” signs that have appeared this week attest. The greater produce thieves are the birds, squirrels, raccoons, rabbits, possums and other creatures that roam the area. They will be greatly attracted to the area for the buffet. Plus mulch and loose dirt means new cat boxes!

I see the necessity of a fence going up along my property line at some point. One of the reasons we bought this house was because of the open feeling because of nothing along one side of the property.

I was under the impression that community gardens were in areas where there are no yards. For example, inner city neighborhoods, areas dense with apartments/condos. Everyone in this neighborhood has a yard. Where is the need to rent a box of dirt in a parking lot where the only shade comes from a telephone pole? Why not plant in your own yard?

Why doesn’t Ms Dry put this garden at the school where she teaches? Or behind the church in the lot that is not adjacent to homes? Or some other place? Why isn’t the rat infested mulch pile next to her yard?

Our greatest concerns are simple.

1. Increased traffic and noise.
a. Look at the POP website. Yard sales, cooking classes, bus loads of children, live music and other events. Ms Dry claims that she will not be doing these things in the garden in the future. So if all of your events are to take place inside the church why is the garden across a busy street from that church? Why not put the garden in the other lot adjacent to the church? The parking lot that is not directly adjacent to homes.
b. Displacing 60 parking spaces therefore increasing the on street parking in the neighborhood.
2. Decreased property values. The homeowners within a stone’s throw of the garden feel that the garden will greatly decrease the ability for any of us to sell our homes.

I understand that the church can do what they want with their property and the garden will end up in the parking lot. There is nothing we can do to stop it even though a majority of the local residents oppose it and only a small percentage is for it.

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