For more than a year, Grover Beach residents Linda and Darrell Voth fought city officials’ plans to plug a budget shortfall by selling a city-owned community garden near their home.
At first, it looked like pleas from the Voths and some of the urban gardeners would stop the proposal. But six months later, the Grover Beach City Council started slowly moving ahead with the process to sell the 6,620-square-foot parcel at 920 Brighton Ave.
The Voths decided that if they wanted to save the garden, they would have to do more. In late June, they made an offer to buy the property.
“That was really the only alternative if we wanted to keep it as a garden,” Linda Voth said. “It’s something we both felt was important, and so we’re just doing it.”
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After negotiating on the price, city officials agreed to sell it for $150,000. The Voths will also pay the closing costs, an estimated $1,700 to $1,800.
Linda Voth said the land is still in escrow. They’ve asked the city to fix an irrigation issue before the sale closes.The money will go into the city’s general fund and help balance its budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which started July 1.
The City Council had approved an unbalanced budget but hoped to reduce a shortfall of more than $300,000 in several ways: by selling the garden property; by negotiating continued furloughs and pay cuts with employees; and by reducing the contribution the city makes to the Five Cities Fire Authority, which provides fire services to Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and Oceano.
Most city employees have agreed to take 15 furlough days this year, said Gayla Chapman, administrative services director. Police Department employees will take fewer furlough days but agreed to other concessions, such as giving up the extra pay they receive for working on holidays.
The $150,000 from the sale of the garden property will go into the general fund and could be used to rebuild the city’s reserves, Chapman said.
Chapman said she will take a revised, balanced budget back to the City Council at a later date.
Meanwhile, the Voths plan to maintain the community garden, collect the $60 annual fee for each of the 18 plots and pay the water bills, which could be about $780 a year.
Linda Voth said she might raise the rent by a few dollars a month, and she may try to add a few more spaces to the garden.
In the meantime, she’s enjoying tending to the artichokes, broccoli, carrots and lettuce growing on her plot. Other gardeners are grateful that the Voths were able to buy the property.
“I think it’s a classic case of putting your money where your mouth is,” said Grover Beach resident Sandy Darling, who has gardened there for more than four years. “It was just wonderful, and I don’t know what we would have done if they were not in a position to do that.”
Another resident, Angela Henderson, who created a website at www.savethegbgarden.org urging that the garden be preserved, let out a small cheer when she heard the news.
“I think it’s fantastic that they at least thought it was important enough to save,” Henderson said. “It’s disappointing that the city didn’t have it on a priority list. I know that money is an issue but it’s the only garden we have.”
Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.