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Archive for Thursday, September 23, 1999

COUNTY, FARMER TO BATTLE IN COURT

September 23, 1999

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A controversy surrounding a haunted maze will go to court Friday after an effort at compromise failed Wednesday.

The chance that a dispute over a haunted maze could be resolved by anyone but a judge was snuffed out Wednesday night when Douglas County commissioners turned down a proposal brought by the farmer running the maze.

"See you in court," said Commissioner Charles Jones after the commission vote.

Richard Strong and his mother, Virginia Strong, are being sued by the county because they opened a haunted maze at their farm at 1919 N 1500 Road without heeding restrictions in their temporary business permit.

The first hearing is scheduled for 8 a.m. Friday before Douglas County District Judge Michael Malone. Malone will be asked to rule on a county request for a temporary restraining order that would close the maze until the legal issues could be argued more fully.

Strong is claiming that his haunted maze is an agricultural product, and, as a farmer, he shouldn't need county permission to run it.

But Strong said he also is interested in resolving the matter as soon as possible.

Strong and his mother met Wednesday morning with Commissioner Tom Taul, County Administrator Craig Weinaug and attorneys for both sides.

Taul said he was willing to reconsider the conditions of the permit because the number of people attending have not been as high as anticipated during the first discussions.

"The largest crowd out there has been 30 people to date," said Price Banks, Strong's attorney.

Strong was asked to propose an amendment to the temporary business permit, which required him to treat the road with chemicals for dust, put up a $500 cleaning deposit and close at 8 p.m. each evening.

The amendment he brought Wednesday night would require the cleaning deposit and periodic spraying with water to control dust.

Strong's proposal would have kept him open until 10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday nights, the same hours he was open last weekend. But the proposal called for Strong staying open until midnight on Sept. 24 and 25 and Oct. 22nd and 23rd.

"These hours are an increase. I'm interested in a decrease," Taul said before the commission voted to reject the proposal.

Strong said he had hoped for a counter offer from the commission Wednesday night.

"We probably could have found some lee way," he said.

Taul and Jones said after the meeting that Strong's proposal of more hours didn't set the stage for negotiations.

"I thought it was probably ineffective to make a counter offer," Taul said.

Strong said he would be open Thursday.

-- Kendrick Blackwood's phone message number is 832-7221. His e-mail address is kblackwood@ljworld.com.

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