Maddie’s Pumpkin Patch secures permit despite neighbors’ opposition

Maddie's Pumpkin Patch train ride on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021 in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

McALLEN — One of the biggest seasonal attractions was spared from an early shutdown after Maddie’s Pumpkin Patch secured a permit from the city to continue its operations.

McAllen city commissioners approved a 9-month conditional use permit for the owners of the pumpkin patch on the condition that they mitigate noise, dust, lighting and litter that became the subject of noise complaints from a handful of their neighbors.

Obtaining the permit was a win, said one of the owners, Ricardo Vega, adding that the uncertainty of whether they would be able to continue operating placed a dark cloud over their season.

“Now we get to show that we can make all the improvements that they’re asking for,” said Vega, who owns the property with his wife, Melinda Vega. “We’re going to exceed their expectations.”

Located at 6712 N. Bentsen Road in McAllen, Maddie’s Pumpkin Patch opened in 2016 and has been operating under a special events permit.

But over the years, the patch only grew more popular, drawing large crowds in autumn and, with it, their neighbors’ ire.

Vega said they started reaching out to neighbors and eventually leased an 8-acre property north of the pumpkin patch for parking. Since then, vehicles were able to park within the property or the ranch, he said.

This year, they also wanted to install electricity at the property instead of running on generators like they had been for years. However, in applying for electricity, they were instructed to apply for a conditional use permit.

As part of the application process, neighbors were notified and given the opportunity to voice support or opposition to the permit request.

A few took up that opportunity by submitting a petition asking the city commissioners to deny the request over concerns of insufficient parking, traffic congestion, noise, lack of proper fencing, lack of privacy due to the many visitors, and property devaluation.

The Vega family reached out to the wider community for support, circulating an online petition in favor of the permit that obtained 2,703 online signatures.

During the city commission meeting Monday, one neighbor spoke on behalf of other residents in the area.

“We are here because of the issue, being their location,” she said. “It’s within 200 feet of several residences and in a residential zone, which is against city ordinance. This type of business belongs outside of city limits or in a commercially zoned area where they don’t disrupt the daily lives or pose a threat to their neighbors’ health or peace.”

She added she was disrupted by the constant traffic, noise, and dust caused by cars.

“The main issues are proper parking, noise, dust, trash, flashing lights at night, and the lack of privacy,” she said.

In response to the complaints, an attorney for Vega, Jaime Morales, assured commissioners that the problems were being addressed.

“We want to make clear that the parking this season has all occurred within either his own property or the property that was leased,” Morales said. “Mr. Vega had noticed issues before so even before this became an issue, he leased an additional … acres of an orchard adjoining him, in order to make sure that there’s no overflow or any disruption to the property outside of his own.”

Morales added that Vega had reconfigured the parking lot and rerouted tractor rides to try to minimize disruption to the neighbors.

“He’s put up fencing between himself and the other neighbors in order to block it,” Morales added. “Any openings that might be there, he’s done everything he can to address any issues and concerns that they have.”

Following the discussion, commissioners approved the conditional use permit for the patch for nine months instead of the typical 12 months so that they can revisit the issue before the start of the patch’s next season.

The permit also came with a requirement that Vega build an opaque fence and continue implementing measures to mitigate the amount of noise, lighting, dust, and litter with the use of a city dumpster.

The hours of operation were also shortened so that the pumpkin patch now closes at 7 p.m.

“They’re manageable,” Vega said of the requirements. “We’re willing to work with people as long as it’s fair and it’s something that we can do.”

While the commissioners were willing to approve the permit for now, Mayor Javier Villalobos and Commissioner Joaquin “J.J.” Zamora were skeptical that the patch would be able to stay in the area for much longer.

“I lived in that part of town pretty much all my whole life. It is in transition,” Zamora said. “I’m not going to say it’s rural, but I’m not also going to say it’s urban. If anything, it’s semi-rural or semi-urban, however you want to see the glass.”

Eventually, Zamora said, an operation like the pumpkin patch will likely be pushed out.

“Within three or four years, I see a couple of lots becoming either 50 or even maybe 90-lot subdivisions and so you’re going to have more urban density,” he said.

Vega, though, is not so sure.

“Our east and our north are not going to get developed,” Vega said. “To the west side … that one’s already there.”

Further south, he said, there’s just farmland, and he’s confident no one would develop there.

“The risk of, within that block, apartments or houses ever encroaching, I think it wouldn’t be something that’s going to happen soon,” Vega said.

If it does, he said they’ll adapt.

“We would try to stay there as long as we could,” he said.