Des Moines garden draws praise from some, but others call it a "homeless camp"
A privately owned community garden in the Woodland Heights area cannot host public events after failing to secure a permit from the city's Zoning Board of Adjustment last week.
Why it matters: Some neighbors disagree with the decision, saying it will diminish community gatherings.
- Francois, who lives in the neighborhood, started using the land to garden with his friends in 2020.
- It grew into a public space, hosting events like community dinners, live music and bazaars selling crafts and produce.
Zoom in: The garden focused on sustainability and has a woodland aesthetic, says Cameron Gale, head of the Woodland Heights Neighborhood Association.
Yes, but: While some neighbors say it's whimsical, it's also generated complaints, including by a local resident who said it looks like a "homeless camp."
- Others complained parking was already limited in the area.
Catch up fast: Following a complaint, city staff notified Francois he could not hold events or sell items without an approved permit from the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
- Staff recommended the board approve a conditional permit for one year.
- But the permit failed at the Oct. 25 meeting, when board members split their votes 3-3.
What they're saying: Chairperson Mel Pins said he viewed Woodland Realm as "disheveled" and more similar to "Lord of the Flies."
- He said events and music should not be close to the neighborhood, though Francois contested most events drew about a dozen people.
The other side: Board member Heather Ann Roe said she supported the one-year permit.
- "I do really like the value of having the community together and having events," she said during the meeting.
- Gale said he was disappointed by board members' personal opinions on the garden's aesthetics. "There are a lot of other people who are really charmed by that space," he said.
The intrigue: The Woodland Heights Neighborhood Association unanimously approved Francois' request before it went to the zoning board.
What's next: The garden won't be able to join Ingersoll's Peppermint Trail or host its winter solstice there.
- Francois will have to wait a year before trying for a permit again.
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