With 13½ years remaining on their lease, The National Gardening Association (NGA) notified the City late last month that they would be terminating the agreement. According to Director of Planning and Zoning Paul Conner, the lease is terminated pursuant to the following provision of the Lease Agreement:
“2(e) notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this Agreement, NGA shall have the right to terminate this Agreement by giving ninety (90) days prior written notice to the City, such termination to be effective upon expiration of said ninety (90) day notice period.”
President and CEO of the NGA Michael Metallo said, “As a non-profit organization, it’s important that we stay focused on our mission. We ended our lease with the City of South Burlington after it became clear that we could more effectively serve communities in Vermont and around the globe through grassroots programs and training, rather than onsite infrastructure that lacked the strong support from the City to make it financially sensible to stay. Our relocation to Williston is scheduled for February.”
The National Gardening Association has been leasing the land at 1100 Dorset Street from the city since May 2005. The lease was signed for 20 years at a rate of one dollar ($1) per year. The NGA took over from the prior lessee, the Vermont Botanical Society.
Metallo said, “The lease was for $1 annually in exchange for maintaining and developing the property for use by the general public. NGA invested over $340,000 in just the last seven years in maintenance, programs, and oversight. This includes an outdoor pavilion, tree house, Abenaki wigwam, multiple educational display gardens, wetland gardens, community gardens, and public space for meeting and gathering. Gardens were also supported by a host of volunteers that NGA managed along with hired staff to maintain gardens and programming for the benefit of the public.”
While Metallo shares the City’s vision for preservation of open space, he feels it is more important to dispense their limited resources on mission-centered activities.
“Our passion isn’t playing politics;” Metallo said, “it’s getting children and families out into their backyards and school yards to experience the power of connecting with nature. At nearly $50,000 a year in site maintenance and support costs at 1100 Dorset Street, we’d rather take that money and invest in plant-based education and channeling funds to plant educational gardens at community centers and schools nationwide.”
What is to become of the gardens and structures? No concrete decisions have yet been made given that the news is so recent.
City Council Chair Rosanne Greco said, “This [NGA request to get out of their lease]came out of the blue, and was a surprise to all of us. The City Council has not yet had an opportunity to discuss plans for the grounds or building. Since NGA has 90 days to vacate, I assume the Council will be discussing this in the next month or so.”
Paul Conner added, “The City will be exploring all options in the coming months. As a first step, city staff is gathering information from NGA on the building, site, and community partners involved with the land.”
Metallo certainly hopes that, “Vermonters are able to continue enjoying the space as a community resource for years to come.”
SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent