Josh Grim reacts to township’s cease operation letters
When the Upper Macungie Township Planning Commission met Dec. 18 for a workshop, Grim’s Orchard owner Joshua Grim was expected to appear before the commission to try and save his business.
As the Grim’s Orchard Fall Festival was in full swing Oct. 5, Grim received two letters of violation from Upper Macungie Township.
Although festival activities have been held there on weekends during the fall months for years, Grim was unexpectedly given 30 days to cease operations on the property, located at 9941 Shantz Road.
As a result, the festival came to an abrupt halt Nov. 4.
When spring comes, Grim says he expects it will be “business as usual.” But he knows he is in for a fight.
“This issue is going to be ongoing for weeks or years,” he told The Press.
The property is zoned R1 for agriculture use.
Grim says the notice of violation said some of the operations involve serving food to be consumed by visitors, while at the weekend events and other activities the township deems non-farming.
Among them are a corn maze, hayrides, a haunted corn maze and orchard, a cattle train, bounce pillows, basketball and football tosses, pedal karts, sand pit, spider web, apple cannon, tetherball, bouncy ball track, ladder golf and farmer paintball.
A total of 21 different activities are offered during the festival.
Foods offered for consumption by festival visitors include apple cider slushies, apple cider doughnuts, apple french fries, homemade soups, sandwiches and hot dogs.
Grim sent out a plea to customers Oct. 7, asking them to contact the township in support of his operation.
“Our patrons know that Grim’s Orchard has a long history of offering a farm experience where families can come and learn about today’s agricultural operations through picking your own fruit and enjoying foods and activities,” he wrote.
The property has been in the Grim family since 1939, when Grim’s grandparents purchased the farm.
At first, his grandmother raised chickens and sold eggs.
Soon after, a truck patch was added and vegetables were sold at a roadside farm stand.
In the 1970s, a greenhouse was built, in 1989, a pick-your-own pumpkin patch was added, and later an orchard.
Two years ago, when the haunted orchard feature was added, Grim applied for and received a special event permit from the township.
This year, when he applied for the same permit, there was a months-long delay by the township and then came the notice of violation.
Grim said the business had been working with the township on developing an “agritainment” ordinance and had also proposed an underground tunnel so patrons parking across Schantz Road from the farm could cross the road safely.
The planning commission was scheduled to meet Dec. 20 for a proposed zoning amendment review of additional requirements for accessory uses regarding agritainment.
Grim is perplexed the township would threaten him with violations.
“We could put 83 homes on the property and that would be OK with the township,” he said.
Repeated attempts to reach Upper Macungie Township Code Enforcement Officer Daren Martocci were unsuccessful.
“We are planning new and exciting things to be added to the farm next year,” Grim said. “When we open (in the spring), maybe we’ll be in violation, maybe we won’t.