Dijon: a look back at the public meeting to present the agri-cultural park of the Maraîchers ecocity

Press releases from the assembly of the Quartier Libre des Lentillères.
First press release distributed before the public presentation:

The Quartier Libre des Lentillères reaffirms its willingness to dialogue with the city of Dijon!

Since 2010, hundreds of people have been cultivating the land, organising cultural events, offering markets and meals on donations, self-managed on the 9 hectares of the Quartier Libre des Lentillères. We are still united by the desire to collectively continue the project we are carrying out for this district.

A dialogue began 18 months ago at the initiative of the city council, and we have taken an active part in it. We want to consider all possible forms of sustainability for the Quartier Libre des Lentillères, its activities and its uses, including in the form of legalisation.

Thus, we participated in several meetings where the city council assured us that everything was on the table. We agreed that we had common principles: the general interest and openness to all Dijon residents. We took part in technical visits to bring the city up to standard. To date, we are still waiting for the feedback from the diagnoses.

A year ago, we learned that the city was buying 7 hectares out of the 9 existing ones. A 1.14-hectare plot is still threatened with construction. During our meetings, we reminded them that the Lentillères are indivisible and asked what the city council was planning for this space. The city told us that we would be consulted when a project began to see the light, and that for the moment, nothing specific was planned for this area!

On this 1.14ha plot of “Bande Est” (Eastern Strip), there are already small gardens, a vegan canteen on donations, a BMX playground, a bread oven, ponds, a petanque playground… Hundreds of people living near by the Maraîchers ecocity, at the Abrioux residence or more broadly in Dijon participate in the dynamism of this ecosystem.

5 months ago, a meeting was scheduled between us and the Dijon city council to present our proposals for governance and contracts. The day before this meeting, Mr. Rebsamen, mayor of Dijon, announced in the press that he was interrupting the dialogue and issuing an ultimatum: “I warn. We will stop talking. I give the inhabitants time to think, but I don’t answer for anything anymore” “Either the answer is positive (about the project to build the Eastern Strip of 1.14ha) or we stop the dialogue and what will happen will happen”

We then tried several times to resume the dialogue to get answers to our questions: information on the construction project, form of legalization for the neighborhood, bringing it up to standard… We have made proposals to them, also maintaining that we are aware that negotiations require compromises. Each time we found the door closed. The only answer: an ultimatum that leaves no room for consultation, and the public announcement that a project would be presented without consulting us for the 1.14-hectare strip.

Today, we still support the idea that urban planning must be thought of with the people who live, organize themselves and bring the territory to life.
If the city council is able to move from this vertical and ascending position that it imposes on us, then the dialogue can resume. Otherwise, we will continue, as we have been doing for the past 14 years, to take care of the place in an open and accessible way thanks to all the people who feel concerned about the future of the Lentillères.

The assembly of the Quartier Libre des Lentillères.

Second press release, written following the public meeting

Yesterday, Wednesday 19 June, a presentation took place at the Dijon town hall of the “agri-cultural park” project that the mayor would like to see established on the 8 hectares that are now the Lentillères.

Firstly, we would like to remind you here that this “agri-cultural park” project is not the result of an agreement between the public authorities and the users of the Lentillères. Indeed, the dialogue that began two years ago was suddenly interrupted by the town hall a few months ago through the press.

This week, local residents of the Maraîchers ecocity were invited by letter to a meeting to present the project. At 7 p.m., this letter had to be presented to enter the town hall. We can already be surprised to see, in a process of consultation and information that is supposed to be democratic, that the entrance of the public is filtered. A good dozen municipal police officers were stationed in front of the gates and it was up to them to let them pass or not. Their distrust was clearly directed at people apparently affiliated with the Lentillères.

Thus, about thirty people were unable to pass through the doors of the city hall even though they had their proof of address in hand, a strange welcome for a “public” presentation.

This attempt to exclude some of the inhabitants of the neighborhood meeting did not succeed in muffling the voices of the residents. Indeed, after twenty-five minutes of presentation, concluding on the need to urbanize 1.14 of the 8 hectares of the “park”, the mayor gave the floor to the audience. It was then 9 neighbours of Les Lentillères who spoke out to question the usefulness, necessity and relevance of the construction of 60 new housing units on the 1.14-hectare strip. One presents herself as a school teacher, the other as a retired doctor, and all of them do not embody the stereotype of the militant of the Lentillères that Rebsamen wants us to believe.

Several testimonies insist on the poor quality of life in the already built part of the ecocity project: too hot in summer; poorly served by public transport, very few green and shaded spaces, no play area for children… Some are surprised: What are the challenges of rushing to build new buildings on unit 2, when those who currently live on unit 1 do not have access to basic necessities?

These speeches are dismissed with contempt by the mayor, preferring to invite his citizens to “go and live in the countryside” than to listen and seek solutions to meet the demands expressed. As if we all had this possibility…

Several people express gratitude for the social and cultural work that the Lentillères provides and speak of the ecological and landscape importance of this space for the district.

For his part, Mr. Rebsamen never ceased to recall the illegality of the occupation and rejected his responsibilities in the face of the problems stated.

As a reminder, the users of the Lentillères have always positioned themselves as not being opposed to legalizing and bringing the facilities on the Lentillères up to standard. They have even been working on it for several years. And contrary to the assertion repeated on Wednesday by the mayor, no contract, even at the symbolic euro, has ever been proposed and discussed with users.

The mayor expected support when he presented his project, but he did not get any. He ended the meeting with an announcement out of nowhere, the organization of a referendum for the inhabitants of the neighborhood to decide whether or not to develop the 1.14-hectare strip which is located to the east of the current Quartier Libre des Lentillères. We can only express our distrust of this pseudo-democratic voting system.

Once again, in this new stage of the process, the town hall will be the sole master of the game. It will have the power to decide who will participate or not in the referendum by defining more or less broadly the perimeter of the zone which includes the inhabitants of the Maraîchers ecocity.

We reaffirm today that the future of the district will not be without all its inhabitants.

Will he, as Rebsamen said last night, propose to us in the near future to reopen dialogue?

The assembly of the Lentillères

Quartier Libre des Lentillères
39 au 45 rue Philippe Guignard
21000 Dijon, France
tierraylibertad [at] potager [dot] org

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