Chardon City Council witnessed a sparring match last week that ended in an apology.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Chardon High School Senior John Grabnar relayed what he considered a contentious encounter with representatives of the Chardon Square Association as he attempted to do a service to the city.
Mr. Grabnar said he was involved in community projects, most recently in organizing a blood drive.
An avid gardener, Mr. Grabnar said, he saw an opportunity to give again in the city’s “Giving Garden,” planted by the Chardon Square Association, that provided vegetables to local food banks.
He said he and his friend saw what he thought was an unused plot in the garden and decided they could contribute to its harvest. He said they planted hot peppers and basil in the “empty plot.”
After about two-and-a-half weeks of tending the plot, he said, he encountered a member of the Chardon Square Association, who questioned what they were doing. He said the association had also pulled out all of his plantings.
He said he was taken aback by the encounter when he thought he was doing something good.
“It honestly hurt,” he said, noting that he felt he was being treated as “hooligans trying to do nothing but destroy” what the association had done.
He called on council to review the Chardon Square Association, questioning whether they were “good stewards” of the city.
“We did nothing wrong,” Mr. Grabnar said. “We were just trying to give.”
Heather Means, representing the association, questioned whether Mr. Grabnar was giving an accurate description of the encounter.
She said that “unused” plot was planted with potatoes, although they were not visible above ground.
She said she has dealt with unknown persons who have taken the vegetables from the garden in the past.
She said Mr. Grabnar and his friends just assumed there was nothing planted there and, without asking anyone, decided to upend the work done by the association. She said it was no different than someone going into someone’s yard and deciding to plant what they want in a garden.
“To say we’re not good stewards is incredibly offensive,” Mrs. Means said.
Mr. Grabnar continued to maintain that the plot looked untended and he was unable to find a contact when he searched the association’s website. He did give credit to the association for being “very good for the city.”
Mrs. Means said there is an email address on the association’s website and she continually receives emails from that address.
Council President Jeffrey Smock called for a “little communication in the future.”
Before leaving the meeting, Mr. Grabnar offered an apology. “I apologize for the misunderstanding,” he said.