XENIA, Ohio (WDTN) – Two Miami Valley residents are facing challenges after attempts to open haunted attractions this Halloween season.
Zoning issues, among other requirements, have prevented both residents from moving with their plans.
The Demented Manor in Xenia
Mike Wherry has been serving up scares in his Xenia neighborhood for five years. His Halloween yard display attracts thousands of people to his home on Spegele Court.
Wherry said he almost didn’t do the display this year, after pushback from his homeowners association, but his neighbors petitioned the HOA to let him do it.
“That drove me to go bigger, just the people’s reactions, everybody enjoying it,” Wherry said.
This year, he got the idea to open up a haunted house on a property in Xenia Township, dubbed “The Demented Manor.”
Wherry said the property is zoned as agriculture, and the State of Ohio approved the plan as agritourism or agritainment. However, Wherry said that when he approached Greene County, he was given several extra requirements he needed to fulfill in order to operate the haunted house.
Now, the county won’t consider the plan until a hearing on Nov. 1.
“We kept trucking thinking we were going to open last weekend, but we’re still here, we are still waiting,” Wherry said. “We still can’t get our amusement license through the county until we get that hearing, and at that point, it’s too late this year.”
2 NEWS reached out to Greene County Chief Building Official Al Kuzma, who wouldn’t comment on Wherry’s specific case, but did comment on the rules in place for DIY haunted houses at homes.
“The owner of the home with the proposed ‘Time-limited occupancy’ is required by the OBC to apply for permits/plan approval and pass all inspections to receive a certificate of occupancy prior to opening to the public,” Kuzma said in the statement. “Zoning and Fire Department approvals are also required prior to opening to the public. With these approvals, the public can be assured of a safe and hopefully enjoyable experience.”
The Torment Shack in Troy
A similar situation is happening to Dannie Fergerson in Troy, who has been operating the “Torment Shack” at a property he has rented for four years.
Fergerson said he was notified by Troy’s zoning department he could keep the decorations up, but he could not run a haunted house in a residential area.
“Everybody in the city loves it. The public loves it, my neighbors love it. My neighbors love it,” Fergerson said. “It kind of shocks me that the Troy zoning guy wants to take it away from me.”
State fire marshal: “Different codes and requirements kick in”
According to Ohio State Fire Marshal Jason Corwin, his office has seen an uptick in haunted houses popping up, whether at people’s homes or full-scale attractions.
Corwin said depending on the size and scale of the haunt, it may require more fire alarms, exits, lighting and other safety features.
“Any time that you are inviting the public in to your property, that’s when you kind of get into all of these requirements,” Corwin said.
Corwin said the rules for special attractions, like haunted houses, are up to a person’s local jurisdiction. He said anyone wishing to set up a haunt needs to reach out to their building and fire departments.
“We want everybody to have a great time and I mean, enjoy the spirit of the season, and everything,” Corwin said. “It’s just the codes, we want them to have a safe experience.”