Cordata Community Garden to bloom at least once more

After months waiting for word, gardeners in the Cordata neighborhood have the OK to tend their community garden for at least one more season.

But the long-term future of the Cordata Community Garden remains in limbo while the city and a private developer continue to discuss plans for the land it sits on.

Around the end of the last growing season, developer Caitac, which owns the land, asked for permission to build out of order from a phased development plan approved in 2008.

Caitac wanted to start building west of the garden and Cordata Parkway rather than to the east, but so far the city has asked Caitac to continue developing the phases in the order the city hearing examiner originally approved. That means the area east of Cordata, where the garden is located, is next on the slate.

About five years ago, Caitac allowed neighbors to set up the garden on roughly one-third of an acre northeast of Cordata Parkway.

Volunteers spent $30,000 to install 50 raised beds, a tool shed, and a deer fence, with the understanding the free garden space wouldn’t be around forever.

Caitac planned to continue building houses north as the market demanded it, but with the recession that appeared to be several years out, Cordata Neighborhood Association President Julie Guy said in a December interview.

As the economy picked back up, the developer has continued to work with the garden to ensure it could remain open as long as possible.

Last year the company spent about $100,000 to redesign the location of a stormwater pond needed for the development so it wouldn’t force the garden to be moved, according to a letter Jones Engineers sent to the city.

For now, Caitac has promised the neighbors it won’t disturb the garden this year.

“The gardeners are really happy,” Guy said. “We are going to have registration on March 10 at our monthly Cordata Neighborhood Association meeting at 6 o’clock.”

However, the city and Caitac have not negotiated a deal.

“It’s not the product of any agreement with the city,” said lawyer Bob Carmichael, who represents Caitac. “The statement derived from the reality that Caitac would not be attempting to build phase 1B in 2015.”

The developer contends that when the hearing examiner approved their proposal in 2008, the ruling did not require the phases be built in order.

Part of the reason Caitac has asked to build to the west first is to delay building part of Kline Road as an eventual east-west connector for that neighborhood.

In November, a lawyer for the developer told the City Council it appeared likely a transportation study of the area could find Kelly Road to the north is a better east-west road for that area, making the Kline Road extension unnecessary. Kelly Road is just north of the city’s incorporated area and outside of the city’s current urban growth area.

The city and county are working to update their comprehensive plans by 2016. Part of that process includes looking at urban growth and which roads need work.

City planner Kathy Bell said the city would not prevent Caitac from doing any work this summer or dictate when phases needed to be developed.

“We’re not saying they need to build that portion of Kline this summer,” Bell said. “We don’t dictate the timing of infrastructure construction. They could choose to do no more than what they’re doing now.”

But the city is not allowed to change the phasing, Bell said.

“We’re working with them cooperatively, trying to gain more information,” Bell said. “Whether that will or won’t affect their phasing, we don’t know yet.”

The city and Caitac have plans to meet again in March.

“We continue to talk with the city, we’re working with them on all kinds of things,” Carmichael said.