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County approves permit for more traffic at popular pumpkin patch

Colorado Pumpkin Patch.jpeg
Posted at 10:33 PM, Sep 14, 2023

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — El Paso County Commissioners approved a request for a special use permit Thursday to allow more vehicles to park at a popular pumpkin patch in Monument.

The Colorado Pumpkin Patch first opened in 2018 and operates as an agritainment business under the county's land use regulations. Those regulations limit the maximum number of vehicles visiting such enterprises to 50 at any given time. The special use permit raises that cap to 325 vehicles.

Owner JD Chapman told News5 he bought the 55-acre property with the goal of operating a pumpkin patch. He'd previously rented space to hold similar events at the Jellystone Park in Larkspur.

The business grew and now includes a tulip festival in the spring and summer youth camps.

Given the seasonal nature of his business, Chapman explained there was some initial confusion over the number of cars allowed.

"We understood it, asked some questions, and understood it as an average, but that's not the case," Chapman said.

The property borders Colorado Highway 105 to the south, but lacks direct access from the roadway. Instead, the public must drive through the Canterbury subdivision to reach the entrance on Saddlewood Road.

"With the way we're set here, a lot of traffic does get drug through the community," Chapman said. "So, we're concerned about that, and the neighbors are obviously concerned about that."

Chapman was issued code enforcement violations from recent events where the number of vehicles exceeded the 50-car limit.

One neighbor emailed the county planning office in opposition to the special use permit application and wrote, "Someone is going to be injured or killed if the traffic problem is not resolved."

County staff recommended Chapman pay for road improvements as a condition of the special use permit to address traffic impacts and dust complaints from neighbors. Chapman would have to pay for the construction of turn lanes on Highway 105 at Canturbury Drive and pave the stretch of Sandlewood Road leads to his property entrance.

Chapman estimates the road work will cost over $1 million.

"I feel like there is possibly a danger for having a roadmap for how to kill agritainment," Chapman said.

Consultants representing the pumpkin patch testified that Chapman is agreeable to paying for the road improvements. However, they said doing so would be impossible given the limited time constraints proposed by the county.

They proposed a longer timeline to complete the road construction work, offered to build a privacy fence on the western edge of the property, and to install of a gravel driveway to the parking area to reduce dust during popular events. They also raised the possibility of adding temporary access to the property from Highway 105.

Several supporters, wearing orange hats and bandanas on their wrists, gave testimony urging the board to approve the permit.

"The patch and Chapmans provide a wholesome, safe place for our family to enjoy outside together," one said.

"It's been a great memory going there, we've made so many memories," another shared.

Opponents shared concerns the permit will make the traffic problems worse.

"My kids personally were almost hit on our own property. We've had people drive through our backyard to try to find the pumpkin patch," said Rikki Van Pelt whose property borders the Chapman property to the west.

David Ellis, who lives east of the pumpkin patch, gave testimony arguing that the pumpkin patch violates zoning.

"There's prima facia evidence the Colorado Pumpkin Patch is operating an outdoor amusement park," Ellis said.

The board ultimately approved a motion that adopted the longer time limits suggested by Chapman's consultants. The motion also left open the possibility of amending the permit in the future to allow for access to Highway 105.

The vote was unanimous with Commissioner Gonzales excused.
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