Commission gives go-ahead to corn maze

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 19, 2016

LaGRANGE — A corn maze with hay rides and pumpkin patches is slated to open Sept. 2 off Mobley Bridge Road after county commissioners approved a permit Tuesday.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a special-use permit for property owner David Spurgeon of Mobley Bridge Road, along with his business partners Jay and Cheryl Cram, to operate Grumpy’s Corn Maze at 1510 Mobley Bridge Road. The vote came after heavy input from residents who were for and against the proposal.

The nearly 33-acre site is zoned for residential and agricultural use, according to Jay Anderson of the county’s zoning office. Anderson told commissioners the county’s planning board approved the permit unanimously, and county officials have worked with business owners to craft a suitable site plan.

Three people, all of whom live near the proposed corn maze, spoke in opposition to the plan. Five spoke in favor.

Three speak in opposition

Barbara Nivens of Mobley Bridge Road said the prospect of a new business could be “overshadowed” by potential environmental damage and safety issues. Nivens expressed concern that vehicles parked in the site’s parking lot could leak oil and other fluids into a nearby creek. She also told commissioners she worried about the potential for fire and medical problems at the location.

Commissioner Tripp Foster of District 3 told Nivens there were three fire stations within the responding area of the site and, “we have several large tankers stationed across the county at our disposal.”

Joan Stafford of Mobley Bridge Road, who described herself as representing area residents who signed a petition against the maze, said she “would like to continue living in the quiet country,” and was opposed to the traffic the maze could bring.

“We don’t think we should suffer because the board thinks the county is going to make money off this,” she said.

Stafford was also worried about the sight distance for motorists coming around a corner near the maze’s entrance. James Emery, the county’s chief roads engineer, said the road’s design was “good” in one direction and “adequate” in the other.

Dave Lynch of Billirene Drive in Hogansville said his chief concern was venomous snakes in the area. He presented commissioners with research he’d done on native venomous snakes and urged them to work to find a solution to keep people safe while they use the corn maze. Commissioner Buck Davis of District 2 said he thought the noise from power generators and people would keep snakes away.

Five speak in favor

Jay Cram, part owner of Grumpy’s Corn Maze, spoke to commissioners and told them he and his business partners would and are doing everything they could to comply with the county’s requirements. He explained he’d been through 13 revisions of the site plan and cut back on the site’s hours to accommodate nearby residents.

Grumpy’s Corn Maze will only be open for 27 days per year, Cram said, from Friday to Sunday during September and October. The site will close at 8 p.m. — about sunset — during September and 7 p.m. in October, he said.

He also argued a nearby recreational baseball field caused more noise and light pollution than the corn maze would. Countering some of the complaints made, Cram said he and his partners would place signs at their own expense warning motorists of the potential traffic, as well as ensuring the treeline acts as a sound and light barrier. He also said the business has purchased “hundreds of pounds” or marigold flowers for planting around the area, which some gardeners say keeps snakes away.

Gail Mullins of Hammett Road, who described herself as a small business owner in Hogansville, said she welcomed the corn maze — along with the traffic it would bring.

“I feel like he’s chasing the ever-forgotten American Dream,” she said. “This is good, clean, wholesome family fun, and if there’s an increase in traffic through Hogansville, that’s good for me as a small business owner.”

Hogansville Police Chief Brian Harr addressed commissioners in his official capacity, and said he believed the roads would accommodate the traffic brought by the new business.

Jason Stewart of Park Avenue, a member of the Downtown Hogansville Development Authority, similarly praised the project.

“I’m looking at this from an economic development impact,” he said. “The merchants need all the foot traffic they can get.”

David Spurgeon, the property owner, also spoke to commissioners and said he “wanted to address the concerns” of his neighbors, and that he didn’t want “any bad blood.”

He thought the corn maze would benefit to the community and local economy, as well as provide family friendly entertainment.

Spurgeon was the last to speak, and Chairman Patrick Crews closed the public hearing. Commissioner Richard English of District 5 made a motion to approve the permit, which was seconded by Foster. The measure passed unanimously.

Troup County Government Center. County Government Center.

File photo

By Tyler H. Jones

Tyler H. Jones is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.