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Archive for Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pumpkin patch designs draw outrage from neighbors

September 11, 2013

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Douglas County commissioners said tonight they are willing to allow a limited self-pick pumpkin patch business in a rural area east of Baldwin City, but they want strict conditions on the business' agritourism permit to make sure it doesn't become a nuisance to its neighbors.

After a lengthy public hearing, commissioners told Kirk and Julie Berggren, owners of KC Pumpkin Patch, to work with the county's planning office to come up with a list of conditions on their proposed permit that would limit the scope and impact of the business they plan to move from Johnson County to southeast Douglas County.

“We all support agritourism, but my concern is to get an assurance in my own mind that this activity that we're permitting in an agricultural district does not get to the level of commercial activity in which noise and traffic disrupts the rural lifestyle,” Commissioner Jim Flory said.

The proposal by the Berggrens, who live in Overland Park, calls for establishing a you-pick pumpkin patch business on a 40-acre farm on Kansas Highway 33, south of U.S. Highway 56.

The business is currently located near Garder, in Johnson County, but the Berggrens say it needs to move because a large intermodal transportation facility is being developed near that area.

But neighbors in the rural area along K-33 said the business goes beyond the definition of “agritourism” and would more accurately be described as a large commercial business that would generate too much traffic, noise, crime and other problems for their pastoral community.

The Berggrens indicated in their application that the pumpkin patch would be open only during daytime hours and would only involve picking pumpkins, fishing and bird watching.

But neighbors noted the current business in Johnson County has many more activities such as zip lines, pumpkin and gourd “cannons” that visitors fire at targets, and loud nighttime music and entertainment. They also noted the site plan calls for a 10-acre parking lot designed to hold more than 800 passenger vehicles, plus more than a dozen buses.

“In my opinion, the pumpkin patch may fit this broad definition of agritourism,” said Jim Hendershot, who lives two lots north of the proposed site. “I doubt the intent (of the county policy) was to allow a commercial business to operate, exploiting the purpose of agritourism.”

In January, Douglas County adopted new zoning codes that allow property owners in areas zoned for agricultural use to operate certain kinds of businesses designed to attract visitors and tourism without having to seek a zoning change. But for events that attract more than 100 visitors, the code requires a public hearing and approval by the County Commission.

Curtis Holland, an attorney for the Berggrens, described the business as “wholesome family farm activities.”

“It's a place where parents and families can bring their kids, enjoy the outdoors, pick some pumpkins,” Holland said.

But Michelle Koos, who identified herself as a police officer and who lives north of the pumpkin patch, said it's the kind of business that could attract criminal activity, including pedophiles.

“Pedophiles go to where the children are, and this type of business creates a target-rich environment,” said Koos, who declined to name which police department she works for.

Kirk Berggren flatly denied that claim, saying his business has specific policies to protect children's safety, such as closing all entrances and exits whenever a child is reported lost and not allowing anyone to enter or leave until the child is found.

Julie Berggren insisted the county should grant the permit because their business fits within the county's definition of agritourism.

“We have done everything honestly and openly. We have followed the law," she said.

Commissioners told the Berggrens to work with the county's Zoning and Codes Department to develop a list of conditions and restrictions that would protect the interests of the neighbors. They plan to revisit the proposal when the commission meets Sept. 25.

Comments

Keith 1 year, 3 months ago

"But Michelle Koos, who identified herself as a police officer and who lives north of the pumpkin patch, said it's the kind of business that could attract criminal activity, including pedophiles."

Well there's a subtle argument against it. No hyperbole there.

PhilChiles 1 year, 3 months ago

Yeah, the pedophile argument is downright hysterical. I think it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how pedophiles operate and how they pick their targets. A family member or acquaintance are much more likely to go after your kid, as opposed to a stranger at a pumpkin patch.

Lisa Medsker 1 year, 3 months ago

Yeah! Pedophiles! Let's ban all toy stores, amusement parks, circuses and carnivals, since those will attract pedophiles, too! Oh, and schools! Everyone knows that children always gather in large numbers at schools!

She's a police officer? Good grief.

patkindle 1 year, 3 months ago

They also noted the site plan calls for a 10-acre parking lot designed to hold more than 800 passenger vehicles, plus more than a dozen buses.

NOW THAT IS A LITTLE DICEY FOR A SMALL PUNKIN PATCH

bobbie1207 1 year, 3 months ago

Exactly. We live on 3 acres and as I look at it I'm thinking I could park a LOT of mini-vans and buses. This is NOT going to be your little mom and pop pumpkin patch. Planning that large of a parking area is a huge red flag that these people are not going to plant a few pumpkins for the local pre-schoolers to come pick.

Topple 1 year, 3 months ago

My initial thought was, what could be so bad about a pumpkin patch. Then I read about pumpkin cannons, zip lines, a giant parking lot, and late night music and understood why people don't want the dump around.

"such as closing all entrances and exits whenever a child is reported lost and not allowing anyone to enter or leave until the child is found."

Yea, that's false imprisonment, and probably a fire code violation depending on the sort of dividers you have keeping people in and out.

However, I don't really buy the argument about being a pedophile magnet. You could say that about every single business, event, attraction that is designed for children. Should we lock our kids up until they're 18 to protect them from pedophiles? Maybe you should make the argument that UV rays cause skin cancer so the fact that a pumpkin patch is inherently an outdoor attraction means the city should veto the move.

mom_of_three 1 year, 3 months ago

In department stores, when kids are missing, people are posted at doors to make sure the kids don't get out the door. They may have the same type of thing at the pumpkin patch, just not explained correctly.

imopinionated2 1 year, 3 months ago

I just want to know when they moved K-33 to west of Baldwin City...last time I checked K-33 was east of Baldwin City and when you take it south from 56 Highway it also runs past Wellsville down in Franklin County before crossing I-35 and intersecting with K-68. Guess I need a new map....

RubyVrooom 1 year, 3 months ago

I really don't have an opinion on this either way but would like to point out that the pedophile argument is absolutely ridiculous. "Hmmm... how can I scare people into agreeing with me about this pumpkin patch? I know, pedophiles! Everyone hates those."

.

irvan moore 1 year, 3 months ago

it sure doesn't sound like agritourism to me

Rick Hird 1 year, 3 months ago

Interesting that the pedophile argument wasn't raised when Rock Chalk Park was introduced...it will by definition include a large number of kids, creating a "target-rich environment." Where's the outcry there? Fear mongering usually breaks down with some rational thought.

Agritourism requires no public funding and no tax breaks. It creates jobs and can be extremely beneficial to the land owner and business in the surrounding area. Sure, it needs to be conducted with sensitivity to neighbors, but pumpkins are picked what, one month of the year? Maybe two?

bad_dog 1 year, 3 months ago

"but pumpkins are picked what, one month of the year? Maybe two?"

So it stands to reason they might be engaging in the other activities outlined in the article what, the other 10-11 months per year?

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kernal 1 year, 3 months ago

They're going to build a 10 acre parking lot for 800 cars to be used just during pumpkin season? Yeah, right.

Just say no.

Randall Uhrich 1 year, 3 months ago

I just looked at the KC Pumpkin Patch website, and it looks like it is a lot more than some low-key pumpkin picking masquerading as agritourism. I'd say the neighbors of the proposed site have a legitimate objection. I'd suggest the county commissioners encourage the Berggrens to locate elsewhere, rather than rely on them limiting the scope of their enterprise. After all, they're in it to make money, and going smaller wouldn't fit in with their plans.

bearded_gnome 1 year, 3 months ago

pay no attention to that 10-acre parking loT, don't look behind the curtain!

The business is currently located near Garder, in Johnson County, but the Berggrens say it needs to move because a large intermodal transportation facility

---where's Garder?

kefarris 1 year, 3 months ago

"They also noted the site plan calls for a 10-acre parking lot designed to hold more than 800 passenger vehicles, plus more than a dozen buses.

NOW THAT IS A LITTLE DICEY FOR A SMALL PUNKIN PATCH " This is what their current pumpkin patch has. Check it out in Johnson county. They get a lot of school children come out during October.

"it sure doesn't sound like agritourism to me" ""but pumpkins are picked what, one month of the year? Maybe two?" So it stands to reason they might be engaging in the other activities outlined in the article what, the other 10-11 months per year? " This is what the county designates agri tourism to be. 11 months out of the year the property is either empty, or growing pumpkins and goards, growing hay, and perhaps raising some animals for the small animals petting exhibit used when they are open.

"They're going to build a 10 acre parking lot for 800 cars to be used just during pumpkin season? Yeah, right." That is what they currently have....and it is only used for one month each year.

"The business is currently located near Garder, in Johnson County, but the Berggrens say it needs to move because a large intermodal transportation facility" "I'd suggest the county commissioners encourage the Berggrens to locate elsewhere, rather than rely on them limiting the scope of their enterprise." The current location is leased and set to be developed. The new property is owned by the Berggren's. I doubt they will pack it up and go somewhere else. This is the type of business that needs to be on agricultural property. There will always be people that want to limit what others can do with their property.

bad_dog 1 year, 3 months ago

So agritourism consists of "...activities such as zip lines, pumpkin and gourd “cannons” that visitors fire at targets, and loud nighttime music and entertainment."

That's not your father's farm, for sure, nor does it appear to fit the usage you cite above, i.e. "...11 months out of the year the property is either empty, or growing pumpkins and goards, growing hay, and perhaps raising some animals for the small animals petting exhibit used when they are open." Must be the darned animals running the zip lines and playing loud music at night. Only during that one month when "they are open". But hey, that's the agritourism model, right? How anyone could be confused is beyond me...

JosePeek 1 year, 3 months ago

I am a Douglas County native who attended the public meeting. Here are my comments as someone who lives in the close vicinity of this land and someone who has visited the KC Pumpkin Patch at their current location in Gardner: - The owners of the KC PP run a very family friendly business. - The land they currently are on in Gardner is zoned commercial and surrounded by mostly businesses where as the land in Douglas County is Agriculture and surrounded by farm land and established residential homes. - It is their intention to move most, if not all, attractions to the new land after leaving their Gardner location. The neighbors have extreme hesitations for all of the attractions to be in their back yard. - The land in Douglas County sits on a paved state highway that is 55 mph. There are no shoulders, there is no turn lane. There are accidents on the road today and the neighbors are concerned about the influx of traffic and increased possibility of accidents. - KDOT has made comment that they do not want this to turn in to another K-68 situation where traffic currently piles up because of the seasonal business of the Cider Mill outside of Louisburg. KDOT will more than likely require a traffic study for K-33 since the traffic will increase whenever they hold an events. - Pedophile Comments. The officer that spoke was making comments that Pedophiles go where the children go. - My feelings about the comments at the public hearing about the pedophile situation - The Berggren's took this personally and feel she was making comments on the way they run their business. They obviously do not take this lightly and seem to have a good system to control an event that might result in a lost child. Mr. Berggren spoke very passionately about this. This is not the context in which this subject was brought up. The officer was not commenting on how they run their business but bringing her own reality in to public record. It is a fact that Ps will go where the children are. She has real life experience with this as an officer. Yes, Ps are around schools. Yes, Ps are around churches. Yes, Ps are around amusement parks. Areas like this attract them more because they are sick individuals and they go where they can easily find victims. Obviously they don't always act on their sick urges and snatch a child but they go there to watch. There seem to be very young children that live immediately next to this land. Bringing this business to the residential neighborhood will put those residents children at risk more than if it was not located there; the same it does for families that live around other businesses that are marketed for children. The parents have a greater responsibility, whether they want to admit it or not, that Ps will be hanging around. We live in a sick world and this is the reality. It will simply be a greater risk to the established families that live close to this land. Period.

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