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Church at odds with preservation group.

ST. PAUL, MINN. * A Presbyterian church group may have to plow under the garden it keeps to supply a local social service agency with fresh vegetables because a fence it erected around the garden this spring doesn't meet neighborhood historic preservation design standards, a preservation group has charged.

The garden sits in the lawn of the House of Hope Presbyterian Church, in St. Paul's affluent Summit Avenue neighborhood. The church group, which has served immigrants as its mission since 1855, obtained a city permit and hired a design consultant to address any aesthetic issues the fence may have caused.

The group says the new fence with galvanized steel panels and cedar posts is necessary to keep rabbits and other animals, including human foragers, out of the 78-by-34-foot garden. Vegetables harvested from the garden are sent to Neighborhood House, a social service agency and gathering spot a distance away on St. Paul's West Side.

If the fence is removed, the garden may have to be moved or discontinued.

Neighbors are split on the issue, but members of preservationist groups, like the St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission and the Summit Avenue Residential Preservation Association, are clear that they want the fence gone.

City officials have noted that they granted a fence permit in May without substantial review but that an appeal to that permit did not arrive until well after the appeal period ended.

"I don't see any problem with it. I think they did a tasteful job," said neighbor Scott Hayman. "I think it's kind of crazy to replace a perfectly good fence with another perfectly good fence."

Opponents note that none of the other 11 churches on Summit Avenue have a fence and they say they fear this will set a precedent.

Bethany Gladhill, president of the Summit Avenue Residential Preservation Association, wrote to the City Council July 15: "We believe it [is] historically inappropriate and strongly doubt that it would be allowed in any other private or public front yard along Summit Avenue."

According to Hayman, the City Council hopes low-key negotiations will resolve the issue and that if the garden has to be moved, it won't cost the church anything. The groups have until the second week of August to settle the dispute.

[Joe Winter is a freelance writer in Hudson, Wis.]

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Title Annotation:House of Hope Presbyterian Church; NATION
Author:Winter, Joe
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Geographic Code:1U4MN
Date:Aug 5, 2011
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