Paul Susczcynski, also known as "Farmer Paul" asks township committee for approval to begin prep work at Woodland Park. Credits: TAP Chatham
Chatham Township Mayor Nicole Hagner introduced resolution to start new Community Garden. Credits: TAP Chatham
Michael DePinto, son of Katey DePinto, Community Garden chairperson, speaks in favor of the garden at Chatham Township Committee meeting. Credits: TAP Chatham
Community Garden Told "You Don't Exist Anymore" Before Getting OK to Start Work
Thursday, August 15, 2013 • 10:30pm
CHATHAM, NJ - It took a lot of discussion about how it will be run going forward, but Chatham Township Mayor Nicole Hagner hastily put together a resolution that allowed the Community Garden to start making its move to Woodland Park at the township committee meeting held Thursday, Aug. 15.
Mayor Hagner said she would contact Chatham Borough Mayor Bruce Harris to let him know about forming a new committee for the Community Garden going forward so that it is a 50-50 joint venture.
Before the resolution was passed, the discussion became acrimonious at times because the township committee and the members of the Community Garden were at odds over how to proceed.
The township committee wanted to ensure that there were new rules that provided a 50-50 oversight between the township and the borough. The Community Garden members just wanted to start moving forward with the move to Woodland Park so that it would be ready in time for next spring.
The problem is that there are limited spaces in the garden and the 60 who had the 10' by 10' plots last year were given the right by the Community Garden committee to return each year. There are 22 on the waiting list to receive plots.
Township committee member Kevin Sullivan pointed out that it can't be like "Giants tickets" that are passed on forever within families. Later in the meeting, Sullivan suggested that the plots could be run like sports teams in town, where there is a cutoff date to apply.
At one point, Bailey Brower, a member of the township committee, told the Community Garden members in attendance at the meeting: "That list no longer exists. The day you came in here and asked for a joint venture was when you lost that right. You have to go out into the community and find out who is interested. You don't exist anymore.
"If there are 200 people on the list and you don't get a spot, that's too bad. You want to make sure you're assured of getting the lots and we're not going to spend money or put property into the hands of a special group. I don't understand why you can't get that."
Katey DePinto, chair of the Community Garden committee, and member Paul Susczcynski agreed that the garden should be open to all residents, but stressed the need to move forward on the project before the new rules are sorted out.
"The property now is mostly weeds and grass," Susczcysnksi said. "To squelch that and still keep it an organic farm, we need the time to do grading, bring in four to six inches of mulch on the surface and let it settle with a little bit of rain. Plow all that mulch in and put in what is called a cover crop.
"If we don't get that cover crop seeded before the cold weather comes, then we won't be ready for spring. Planting the cover crop should be done by mid or late September. When the site was picked (Woodland Park), we requested a June 15 start date. If (the approval) doesn't happen tonight, it's not going to get done in time."
The township committee, however, wanted to make sure that the seeds for new rules and a new joint committee were planted before they agreed to grow anything. In the end, Mayor Hagner came up with the right wording and the assertion that she would speak to Mayor Harris.
"I wish to allow the Community Garden to move forward with its preparation for a joint Community Garden, which will be administered by a new organization," Hagner said. "Capital outlay will be paid back by fees and there will be an equal opportunity for residents to have plots at the Community Garden."
The resolution passed by a 3-0 vote. Two committee members were absent.
"We have our new home and I'm happy, extremely happy," DePinto said. "We understand (the township committee's point about opening up the plots to all) and we're in agreement."
The original Community Garden had been in Chatham Borough under the power lines at Division Avenue off Main Street. But PSE&G forced the garden, which has been there since 2008, to move. Woodland Park is owned by both the township and the borough.
The new site is 120 feet by 120 feet and could offer as many as 72 plots for gardening.
"We have a list of members who are current and a wait list," Susczcynski said. "There is enough room for all those people who signed up as recently as six months ago or earlier."
Susczcynski, also known as Farmer Paul, understood that his list is no longer valid, according to the township committee: "We're going to meet and talk abouit it."
In other business: the township committee put off any action on a proposal to put a crosswalk at the intersection of Meyersville Road and Fairmount Avenue. There were a number of safety concerns brought up and it was decided that there needs to be more study on the subject before any plan can be proposed.