By Jean Lotus
The fate of Forest Park's micro-farm Purple Leaf Farms was debated at Village Hall Monday as market gardener Jessica Rinks submitted a request to renew her half-acre micro-plot at the Altenheim property for the 2013 growing season. Rinks wanted to begin planting as close to April 1 as possible, she said in the plan.
The village council did not vote on the new proposal, which asks for an additional 100 square feet and permission to market some of the harvest outside of Forest Park at the Hines VA Farmers Market and another market in Elmwood Park. But the council debated the minifarm's future so that a new agreement could be crafted, or not, for this year.
Both proposals met with resistance from Mayor Anthony Calderone and commissioners Mark Hosty and Tom Mannix.
Mannix pointed out that he voted against the proposal last year. He didn't like a flat fee of $100 for water usage and that taking produce out of the village was "a different mission than it was last year."
Hosty objected to the carving up of the village-owned parcel when, "I believe Altenheim should be packaged and marketed for sale." He complained that renting slivers of the property would make it less attractive to a buyer who wanted the entire parcel such as YMCA or Fenwick. "I'm sure they would love to rent the property for minimal amounts."
This caused Public Property Commissioner Chris Harris to respond that no action was to be taken on the property until the village's comprehensive plan was complete. "The mayor agreed to that," Harris noted.
"I never agreed to that," Hosty said.
"There's a comprehensive plan that's underway and I don't think we're actively marketing that property right now," Harris said.
Calderone asserted that expanding the scope and sale locations of the farm's harvest output outside of Forest Park put the village in a position of leasing public land for a commercial enterprise.
"I acquiesced last year but I think this proposal needs a little fine tuning," Calderone said. "I thought it was kind of a cool thing to do," he said, but added the proposal might open the door to other people who might want to start using village parkways or "raising chickens on public property."
"We have a responsibility to walk cautiously as we move forward," Calderone said.