The National Gardening Association has managed a 14 acre plot of land and old farm house at the Wheeler Nature Park in South Burlington for the past 10 years.
"We use gardens as a means of demonstrating all different types of activities and concepts for kids like cooperation, leadership, math, nature," said the Association's Michael Metallo. "The association is really focused on education though gardening."
They originally signed a 20 year lease, paying the city one dollar a year, and in exchange the organization maintained the land and the house -- used as offices.
The National Gardening Association says they spent on average $40 to $50 thousand a year to up-hold their end of the bargain. Over a year ago they approached the city council for permission to host events like weddings to help offset costs. Some of those events would serve alcohol on city property, which is why council approval was necessary. The City Council said yes.
But Metallo said the city then wondered about what other changes could be made to the original lease.
"What we indicated was if we are going to open up portions of the lease we would like to sit with them and work collaboratively to look at all of the lease. The dollar a year was just one thing we wanted to look at," said Sandy Miller, South Burlington's City Manager.
"They wanted us to pay more for the lease. They also challenged many aspects of the lease that we didn't feel we could afford to address and we did not feel the lease would be advantageous to us the way they were trying to design it," Metallo said.
No concrete lease numbers were discussed, but the NGA decided to move out.
The Association has found a new home in Williston. They will pay $2,000 a month for office space, only there will be no gardens on site -- money will be reassigned to educational programs and outreach.
"We would like to be able to go into the schools and go into the communities and work with other national organizations to help to put what we are doing out on the rest of the map," Metallo said.
Sandy Miller said the city is sorry to see the NGA go. "We had some disagreements over what they wanted to do in their lease and what we might want to see, but we had no interest in seeing them leave. We are disappointed to see them leave and we had hoped they would stay, she said.
While the association will leave South Burlington in February, it leaves behind all the gardens and out buildings. Miller said the city will seek input from residents about what should be done with the property, but for now the existing community gardens which shared the site with the National Garden Association, will stay.
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