Rutherford zoning approves Hippie Hill campground - KCTV5 News

Rutherford zoning approves Hippie Hill campground

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The times, they are a changing.

Never had the Bob Dylan lyric been truer for the folks on Hippie Hill in Rutherford County.

Nervous neighbors and property value problems have this haven for the homeless, travelers and free spirits singing a new tune.

"This place is like God's country to us," said Thomas "Hippie" Maddox. "This is a very simple life."

For nearly 13 years, they've lived the simple life, living off the land.

"Man, that's what the woods are all about," said Maddox.

In the hills of rural Rutherford County, bordering Coffee and Cannon counties, Hippie Hill has been taking in transients, the homeless or anyone who needs a place to stay.

"This is where we come to feed a lot of people, help a lot of people out on the street, show them a different way of life," Maddox said.

Hippie Hill flew below Rutherford County's radar until recently. Now Maddox has to get a special exception to operate as an official campground with special accommodations for transients and will have to follow county rules and regulations.

"Any changes to Hippie Hill, I hope it's to the better," said Maddox.

The future of Hippie Hill was discussed at the Rutherford County Board of Zoning Appeals meeting Wednesday night.

"If Hippie Hill was what it is portrayed here tonight, it would be a good thing," said Barbara Thompson, who owns land near Hippie Hill.

Some nearby neighbors were outraged, claiming calves are being killed by dogs and pot growing on the land, among other things.

"Our land is being devalued by what's going on with this situation in that part of our county," said James Jernigan Jr., who owns property near Hippie Hill.

Jernigan owns several hundred acres of land adjacent to Hippie Hill, and he's not too happy.

"The county has been so duped into believing what's going on up there is OK," said Jernigan.

Over the years, Maddox said he's helped hundreds of young people get back on their feet. They are even taught job skills like gardening and farming.

The board approved the campground and will give guidance on what's expected from Hippie Hill in the future.

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