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Waukegan community garden turned into ‘dumping ground’

Overgrown weeds an arenot yet developed Green Town Waukegan community garden corner Genesee Street Belvidere Road. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times

Overgrown weeds on an area not yet developed at the Green Town Waukegan community garden on the corner of Genesee Street and Belvidere Road. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 20, 2011 1:15AM

WAUKEGAN — A proposed community garden on the southwest corner of Belvidere Street and Sheridan Road suffered from a reported lack of water service this growing season, and City Council members have lamented the condition of the project.

“That is a mess. It’s a mess,” 1st Ward Ald. Sam Cunningham said. “There is a not a person up here that would have that next to their house, (and) I told you it was going to be a mess.”

In early May, Cunningham was among four aldermen voting against allowing the non-profit group Green Town Waukegan to create garden plots on the 35-by-300-foot property, which is owned by the city, but has sat vacant after formerly housing such things in the past as an auto dealer.

Adding that he’s received recent complaints about the lot’s appearance, Cunningham said, “I’m telling you today that is going to be removed. ... (We can’t have) people riding by every day and seeing that garbage.”

Second Ward Ald. Thomas Koncan Jr., who had joined Cunningham and Ald. Edith Newsome (5th Ward) and Larry TenPas (6th) in voting against the garden, said, “I don’t believe that it turned out to be the showpiece it was reported to be.”

Green Town had planned to install 25 plots that could be leased by community residents for $20 each on the western third of the lot, with native plants planted on the eastern two-thirds.

City Attorney Newton Finn, a member of Green Town, explained the effort suffered a critical blow when it was learned that water service to the parcel had been partially removed.

“The location turned out to be something that set us up to fail,” Finn said, adding that only half the beds ended up being available, and barrels of water had to be hauled in by volunteers. “Without water at that site, there was no way to garden.”

Finn added that Green Town will be seeking “a better site, a more conducive site, for a community garden next year.”

While TenPas spoke against the community garden concept in May, he said Monday that he now feels “the concept is very, very good, but the location was bad. They started out with too many obstacles to overcome.”

Third Ward Ald. Gregory Moisio summed up the situation by saying “good idea, poor execution. It looks like a dumping ground.”

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