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Town Square

Debate over the future of the Grant Road farm grows nasty

Original post made by Anne Toth on May 29, 2007

Many Mountain View residents who live adjacent to the Grant Road farm (or famed "pumpkin patch" as it's better known) were expressing their personal opposition to the Mountain View Farmlands proposal. The proposal, which would create a 5 acre organic demonstration farm and arguably higher density housing on the remaining property, is a matter of intense local interest and disagreement. A drive down Preston Drive late last week revealed that a *significant* percentage of homeowners in the immediate area are opposed to the current proposal for a 5 acre farm. How could you tell? They had signs posted in their yards that said as much.

That was until this past weekend.

Strangely, ALL the signs disappeared in the middle of the night. Now it's possible that this was just an ill-conceived teen prank. However that doesn't seem to be the likeliest explanation. As much as I hope it's not the case, this seems more like some nasty community vigilante-ism.

We can debate the merits of the signs themselves but people are entitled to their opinions and should be free to express them. Certainly there have been a number of local signs posted that promote the "save the farm" cause. But whatever someone's personal opinion is on a particular topic, it's not okay to steal personal property or attempt to stifle speech. That's just wrong. And it makes the folks who are trying to engage in a meaningful discussion about the merits of having a farm look like they are engaging in petty thievery to make their case. Even if they aren't. It's really just sad.

Comments

Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on May 29, 2007 at 4:48 pm

Well, it makes sense. The "Farm" Group (and lets get real here-- that has never been a REAL farm!) has shown that they have little respect for the property rights of the owners of the pumpkin store parcel-- why should they show any regard for the property--or free speech-- rights of neighbors?


Posted by threefive, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 29, 2007 at 10:36 pm

I really cannot understand why neighbors would be opposed to the farm. I've heard concerns about traffic and parking - but come on, if 55 homes go there instead of a farm, traffic and noise is going to be much worse.

That neighborhood has a rare opportunity to have a very unique project right in their backyard, instead of more urban sprawl, which composes the vast majority of the rest of the city. Well, maybe the neighbors believe that adding a bunch of new McMansions next door will increase their property value, which is pretty sad.


Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on May 30, 2007 at 8:47 am

The neighbors object because you are attempting to force upon them a high-density project that doesnt conform with their neighborhood, with LESS streets to feed the new development, therefore forcing MORE cars onto the one major street-- a street that already has problems (no, I dont live over there, but Ive actually been paying attention...). The proposal, put together without any input from professional builders or planners (or, um, the OWNERS of the property), will add a LOT of congestion to that neighborhood.

threefive, here's what I'd like to ask you-- can I put a 3 story townhouse project nextdoor to you, but to make up for the density, may I seize your other neighbors house, pay them half what its worth, tear it down and plant sunflowers?


Posted by St. Joseph Parish Member, a resident of another community
on May 31, 2007 at 3:15 pm

St. Joseph Parish Member is a registered user.

I have been horrified by the continuing battle over property long and legally owned by a family who has done nothing different than what the hundreds of farm/orchard owners in this valley did before them: sell out. In particular, the recent escalation of removing the signs is particularly disturbing. On the other hand, I am sympathetic to Mountain View Farmlands Group who obviously care a great deal about where they buy their pumpkins at least in contrast to their fellow citizens civil liberties. There really is nothing wrong with wanting things to stay the same, and who doesn't have fond memories associated with the "Pumpkin Patch". So I propose the following solution: why don't members of the Mountain View Farmlands Group pool together property that they themselves "actually own" and develop a historical farm/orchard on that property. You have a right to your opinion but not to someone else's property -- no matter how many memories you made or pumplkins you bought there.


Posted by Jon Wiener, a resident of another community
on May 31, 2007 at 9:17 pm

I think we are forgetting something here: Web Link


Posted by razeitall, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 1, 2007 at 12:16 am

Yes, I agree - I sincerely hope that every last square inch of Mountain View is zoned as residential and/or commercial, and we allow everyone to develop as much as possible. In fact, the city would probably do well to allow all property owners to raze their heritage trees to make way for even more valuable real estate. After all, why should we care about open space or habitat? And why grow produce locally, when we can truck it in from Mexico?


Posted by Dan B, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jun 3, 2007 at 11:45 pm

Based on what I know, from the information given in the Voice, I'd approve of the developer's plans if it were near my neighborhood. However I don't think I'd support the farm for two reasons.

First, buy the land if you wish to keep the farm. Dig into your pockets and pass around a collection plate. Preventing the landowners from selling this final parcel would be unfair to the landowners if this prevents them from getting full, fair market value for single family residential zoned land.

Playing tricks with zoning isn't appropriate, particularly if all landowners aren't treated equally. "Too little, too late" comes to mind. It doesn't seem like people cared to plan for the future when all of the other farms in the city were sold for homes. Until recently, how much attention was paid to saving the farm or to save enough to buy it? What's more, the city expected the land to be developed into homes and has already pre-zoned the land for single-family residential use. If it weren't pre-zoned, I might feel different.

From the Voice: "The city of Mountain View, in anticipation of annexing the land from the county, has "pre-zoned" it for single-family residential use with a minimum lot size of 8,000 square feet, according to city zoning administrator Whitney McNair.
Web Link

Second, it sounds like there are serious concerns in the surrounding neighborhood regarding traffic with the farmlands plan. I sure wouldn't want to have a home on Covington Road if all traffic will be diverted down it.

"Two neighbors criticized that plan because the existing cul-de-sacs adjacent to the property would be walled off instead of pushing through as originally intended when the surrounding neighborhood was built. The five-acre farm, as proposed by the Farmlands Group, is split in half by Covington Road, which will likely extend across Grant Road into the development."
Web Link


Posted by Anne Toth, a resident of Waverly Park
on Jun 5, 2007 at 6:12 pm

From my reading, the Mountain View Voice appears to have little division between the editorial page and the reporters who writing very one-sided, pro-farm articles. I am disappointed in the coverage to say the least. It's not balanced at all.

Generally I think most people would favor having *some* kind of farm near their homes -- all else being equal. But it's not. There is a cost. The cost here is carried by the property owners and the local community. Everyone wants the best for the community but imagine if you owned property and the city and other activists were attempting to force you into "donating" a portion of it or risk not being able to sell at all. As a property owner that scenario scares me and sets a pretty terrible precedent for property owners everywhere. Every day of delay is costing these land owners real money. Delay tactics only play into the hands of those who want the farm to remain. It just seems like extortion at this point.

The other cost here is higher density housing to make up difference between the various proposals. These will be larger homes than the average houses in Waverly Park today and if you make the lots small enough to squeeze in the number that they are talking about I think the difference will be appreciable - and not a good outcome where the neighborhood is concerned.

I was surveyed in the Farmlands door-to-door survey. I was asked if I wanted to have a farm nearby. I said yes. Sure. Who doesn't? I was waiting for the natural next question - what trade-offs would I be willing to make to get that? No such specific question was ever asked. How can a survey like that be seen as fair and unbiased? I wouldn't want a farm next door if the trade-off were higher density housing and a loss of property owner rights.

All in all there are so many misconceptions and a lot of misinformation being spread. I am not surprised by the romance surrounding the "pumpkin patch." Thousands of kids visit - I know because they come barreling down my street and pulling u-turns in front of my house for the entire month of October. But mostly folks came to ride a little train, race around with wheel barrows and buy pumpkin-shaped cookies with orange frosting. Not a single pumpkin ever grew in that "patch." The pricey pumpkins (and Christmas trees later in the year) were all trucked in from somewhere else. (And wouldn't it be ironic if they were grown in some horribly unsustainable fashion, covered in pesticides and inorganic fertilizer?) As somone who lives nearby I can tell you that the farm stand was hardly flooded with people when it was open except for the month of October. Usually it was pretty empty. Each October it's frankly been more about Halloween tradition than about sustainable agriculture and renewable resources.

I just think people should be honest about this stuff rather than exaggerating about the history, the impact and the way kids interact with this place. It's a view only possible with very rose colored glasses. Make that pumpkin-colored.


Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on Jun 6, 2007 at 10:54 am

Anne is right. The fact that the land is referred to in every Voice article as "the Farm Land" is very telling-- is it bias, or lazy reporting? Either way, it should be addressed. I believe that, once, the property was a commercial flower orchard, but it has never been a farm! Call it the pumpkin store-- thats what it really was!


Posted by Don Frances, Mountain View Voice Editor
on Jun 7, 2007 at 11:04 am

Don Frances is a registered user.

Eric,

"Every Voice article" does not refer to that property as "the farm land." In fact, to my knowledge not a single one does. We generally refer to it as the "Grant Road Farm property," which I believe is the clearest and simplest reference we can make given its history and recent context.

We do, however, refer to "The Farmlands Group" by its proper name.

You are a very prolific comment-leaver on Town Square, probably the most prolific so far. That's fine -- but I do insist that you are more diligent in your thinking and refrain from posting potshots and baseless accusations.


Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on Jun 7, 2007 at 3:03 pm

June 1: "Farm Owners Threaten Lawsuit"
May 25: "The battle isn't over for the Grant Road farm"
May 18: "The idea to preserve five acres of the Grant Road farm has always had its opponents..."
May 11: "City staff is seeking guidance from the council on how to proceed with annexation from the county of the 15-acre farm at the corner of Grant Road and Levin Avenue"

Why are you splitting hairs between "the farm land" and "the Grant Road Farm"? The issue is that you have been defining the propery as a "farm", when it is not any such thing-- why not call it the Pumpkin patch, or the "undeveloped property"? Both are more accurate and less prone to show a bias in my opinion

My "accusation" is not baseless-- I contend that calling that propery a farm shows a bias, unintentional or not. I have now documented that the paper reguarly referred to it as a "farm". If you disagree with me, fine, you are welcome to make your case, but to demean my reasoned point as a 'potshot' is unimpressive.



Posted by Don Frances, Mountain View Voice Editor
on Jun 7, 2007 at 5:12 pm

Don Frances is a registered user.

Eric,

I'm glad you posted these examples -- I didn't understand your point before. You're taking a few instances of the word "farm" and clumping them together out of context here. Definitely it deserves a closer look.

First of all, contrary to your assertions, that property was, until very recently, a farm. A farmer named Dave Schmitz worked the land there about three quarters of the year. He tilled the soil and grew corn and some other crops. Nothing else was going on on that property except that. Whether it was a "viable" farm or whatever condition you want to attach to it, it was a farm, plain and simple.

This had been the case for something like 18 years, until just a few months ago, when the owners shut down Schmitz' operation. During the recent controversy, a local population of Voice readers understood these facts perfectly well when they read our stories.

So when we say, for example, "The idea to preserve five acres of the Grant Road farm has always had its opponents," it is understood that we're not saying it's a farm RIGHT NOW, but that people wanted to preserve part of what was, until very recently, a farm. This is the context you're ignoring.

As I mentioned before, as often as possible I fell back on "Grant Road farm property" -- it's a mouthful, but less cute than "pumpkin patch," more accurate, and the word "farm" is the only simple way to indicate to people what we're talking about.

I've been doing this sort of work for about 15 years, and the favorite slur of critics has always been "bias." If you write it one way, or use a certain word, it's "bias." If you write it the other way or use a different word, that's "bias" too. The only solution would be to drain our stories of all specificity and meaning, making this a story about a mere "property" on "Grant Road" -- which is really no solution at all.


Posted by Tom Holmes, a resident of Waverly Park
on Jun 7, 2007 at 7:11 pm

Who would have thought, six weeks ago, when we formed the "Defending Our Neighborhood" Group that the Mountain View City Council, in their collective wisdom, would vote 6-1 to end the Farmlands Group proposal and move forward with the pre-zoning for the Grant Road site. Truly amazing!

Please commuicate with all of the council members and express your appreciation for a reasoned and civil discussion among peers who apparently have a great ability to listen to the facts and come to reasonable conclusion as a group.

My hat is off to "all" of them regardless of their vote. They did the heavy lifting!

Semper Fi,
Tom Holmes


Posted by Anonymous Native, a resident of Waverly Park
on Jun 7, 2007 at 10:19 pm

How about a sweet compromise-a mini whimsical park called the Pumkin Patch Park, that new & old residents can come together communicate & enjoy? Can Summerhill Developers sacracfice a sliver of land for the benefits of a family community?


Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2007 at 12:25 pm

Don, I understand your instinct to defend your paper, but I am unimpressed with your desciptions of my comments as "slurs", "baseless", "out of context" and "potshots". They are none of these. I implied no malice on your part-- perhaps it would have been more accurate on my part to say that your heavy use of the word "farm" CREATED bias, implying activity that just wasnt there (and to call the part-time modest use of the site as 'farming' is an overstatement. Someone here descibed that as a "truck farm", which I think better characterizes the sites use).

I was not "taking a few instances and clumping them together". I was citing every article from the Voice on the topic in the past month, and using either the headline or the first relevant mention of the property.

"First of all, contrary to your assertions, that property was, until very recently, a farm. A farmer named Dave Schmitz worked the land there about three quarters of the year. He tilled the soil and grew corn and some other crops. Nothing else was going on on that property except that"-- your last sentence here is grossly inaccurate! Christmas Trees and Pumpkins were imported for sale, and kids got train rides-- THAT was the most notable use of the site for many years, and THAT is what the Farmland group rallied around (as evidenced by their website and displays)


Posted by Sue Joahnson, a resident of Waverly Park
on Jun 8, 2007 at 12:46 pm

How about a park instead of a farm.


Posted by Don Frances, Mountain View Voice Editor
on Jun 9, 2007 at 10:47 am

Don Frances is a registered user.

Eric,

You're right, the property was used for a pumpkin patch, a christmas tree lot, a choo choo train -- and as a farm. Thousands of kids were brought there each year by nearby schools not to ride the train, but to see how crops are grown. You can argue over the merits of that, but the only people who ever disputed that this property was a farm were the people who didn't want to see part of it preserved as such.

On a separate topic, let me give a couple examples of baseless potshots written by you:

"The "Farm" Group ... has shown that they have little respect for the property rights of the owners of the pumpkin store parcel-- why should they show any regard for the property--or free speech-- rights of neighbors?"

In which you imply, without any shred of special knowledge or evidence, that the Farmlands Group stole the signs. Here's another, even more egregious example:

"So, an anonymous person ... thinks it was 'just a prank'. Anaonymous, perhaps, because its one of the organizers of the land-grab?"

In which you imply that this woman, who you don't know, is lying about the signs being stolen as a cover for the Farmlands Group, which is the real culprit and which she is perhaps a member of. Even as you were typing those words, police were uncovering the identities of the two high school kids who stole the signs as a prank.

I never noticed that you apologized for, or even acknowledged, these libels. To the contrary, you plowed ahead without a second thought, and in the former case (when I pointed out your error) you quibbled over the exact distance of Springer school.

Besides being unacceptable from the standpoint of human decency, half-cocked accusations like these are unacceptable on the Voice's Town Square.


Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on Jun 11, 2007 at 11:49 am

Expressing an opinion is libelous? Correcting your error is half-cocked?

My comments mirrored opinions expressed in the Voice. Did you re-interview those people and ask them to publicly apologize?

The theft of those signs (yes, a prank. My opinion was in error, as was the opinion of many on this topic), HAD IT BEEN DONE by individuals affiliated with the Farmlands group, this would not have totally surprised me. Their tactics were aggressive on occasion, at least by some of their members.

If dissenting opinion or criticism of the Voice is not allowed here, fine- your website, your call.

I still contend that calling that property a 'farm' is a huge overstatement. You disagree- fine. Im certainly open to having my mind changed, and you have brought up some reasonable points. Your post about (07 June) was an exercize in splitting hairs, however, and I found it highly negative. I have corrected some erroneous statements- relevant ones- that you've made, and some of your replies have been less then civil.


Posted by Eric Lover, a resident of another community
on Jun 11, 2007 at 2:12 pm

Eric, I agree with you. Mr Frances is taking things a little too personal and over-reacting. He totally missed your humorous(s) analogy on the stolen signs. Why wouldn't you suspect people who have already displayed a disregard for property rights. Your comment was rhetorical and Mr. Frances tried to take it literally. Second your comments about the title "farm property" were great. I wold have preferred the MV Voice refer to the property as the Grant/Levin Rd. property, commonly known as the Pumpkin Patch. Several people did question the use of the term "heritage farm" with regard to this hobby amusement park and farm. I hope you don't get bounced for being so critical. Mr Frances is clearly showing his bias and inability to moderate fairly. He reminds me of "soup nazi" from Seinfeld. Eric, "No blog for you"


Posted by Don Frances, Mountain View Voice Editor
on Jun 11, 2007 at 2:33 pm

Don Frances is a registered user.

You got it, I'm the soup nazi. I can't really be any clearer than I have been, so I'll let my previous comments stand. It's not so important that Eric or "Eric Lover" get it, but that the larger number of Town Square users get it. The Terms of Use are posted here:

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