Boulder is reopening negotiations with Long's Garden, the city's 97-year-old urban farm on North Broadway, to buy a conservation easement to protect the property from development.
The city has been talking for about 15 years about preserving the 25-acre property, where bulbs and flowers have been grown for almost a century and where community-run Growing Gardens provides plots. Talks got more serious a couple of years ago but were derailed by the high price and other concerns.
Now, the council is again discussing the easement as part of its long-term open space acquisition plan.
"I'm much more hopeful at this point," said Catherine Long Gates, an owner of Long's Garden who has lived there her entire life. "There seems to be a lot of support. We would really like to see the land stay in agriculture."
At a City Council meeting this week, members agreed that they support the goal of preserving Long's Garden for education and agricultural uses. But several expressed concerns about the high price -- close to $5 million -- and how well a conservation easement would meet the city's goals.
"This is an opportunity that may well escape us if we don't act on it soon," said council member Macon Cowles.
Mayor Matt Appelbaum said he would much prefer the city to buy the land outright, granting greater control over future uses on the site. While a conservation easement would prevent the site from being developed, the main goal is preserving the use as a community urban garden that's dedicated to education, he said.
"How do you write an agreement that preserves the use into perpetuity?" he asked. "You've got to be thinking 50 to 100 years from now."
Amanda Bickel, who is helping lead the effort to preserve Long's Garden, said the property is used intensively for agricultural education.
"This is not just a normal piece of agricultural land," she said. "You've got a really wonderful collection of places and programs. It's really used by a lot of people in the city."
The Long family, which owns the farm just north of the North Boulder Recreation Center, leases 11 acres of the east side of the property to Community Gardens, which oversees the Hawthorn Community Gardens, the Cultiva market garden and greenhouses, the Children's Peace Garden and the Horticultural Therapy Garden.
The rest of the property is used mainly by the family for Long's Iris Gardens. A recent addition is the Mountain Flower Goat Dairy, a small, urban goat farm.
Three large buildings -- including a two-story, 1900-era house -- also are on the property and would be allowed to remain as part of any agreement. There was talk at the council meeting of applying for landmark designation for the house.
"Whatever we have in terms of a conservation easement, it's very important that the negotiations give both sides real security on what's going to happen to this land in the future," said councilwoman Lisa Morzel.
While the council agreed that the city staff should reopen negotiations with the family, how the city would pay for the possible purchase wasn't decided. Several members suggested community partnerships, along with using money from the open space department and the parks department.