Haunted House neighbors ask commission for relief

Neighbors of a popular south Augusta haunted house appealed to Augusta commissioners Tuesday for relief from the screams, extra traffic and grind of chainsaws that plagues their neighborhood 24 days each year.

“We are guaranteed the basic human rights of having a home that is tranquil and peaceful,” said Pamela Williams, alleging fire code violations at Plantation Blood and increased traffic around Halloween. “We need for our leaders to help us.”

Owners of the haunted house, which moved from Columbia County to Wallie Drive in 2010, countered that they, unlike Williams, were property owners, who for safety kept three to five deputies on duty during the 24 days the facility is open each year. The house opened Sept. 23 last year, according to the house’s Web site.

The deputies “let us know when it’s time to put the chainsaws down,” owner Brian Carter said.

“Richmond County has too many caretakers and not enough property owners,” he added.

Commissioner Alvin Mason told Carter and co-owner Mark Jackson that Williams’ status as a renter was not relevant.

“A lot of the caretakers are the participants that take your money,” Mason said.

The city’s public services committee heard both sides of the Plantation Blood argument at a Tuesday meeting despite lacking a quorum of members. Public Services Chairman Corey Johnson asked city administrative, traffic and codes enforcement personnel to meet with parties and return with more information about the haunted house at its next meeting.

Nine-year-old Donovan Lee Brown Jr. was killed by an unknown hit-and-run driver a few blocks away while walking home from the haunted house in 2010. His killer, reported to have been driving a red SUV or minivan, has not been found.

At another meeting Tuesday, the city’s Finance committee heard details of a plan to identify and collect undiscovered license revenue from Augusta businesses.

George Patty, director of Augusta’s planning and development department, said a private firm that bid for the work would pursue the uncollected revenue from small businesses that often operate under the umbrella of area hospitals, education institutions and churches.

The firm, made up of former county administrators and Internal Revenue Service investigators, estimated it needs to find $300,000 to “break even” on a finder’s fee-basis, but that pursuing the revenue might create “some heartburn” as area institutions are checked for unpaid fees, Patty said.

“What I’m hearing is we’re going to play bandit,” said Commissioner J.R. Hatney, who opposed the measure.

Commissioner Jerry Brigham, who supported it, said the city of Atlanta located millions in revenue through a similar process.

“We have an obligation to the taxpayers to go find those people that are not paying,” Brigham said.

Commission committees approved numerous agenda items by consent Tuesday, but Finance took no action on the plan. Brigham said he hoped the full commission would approve it at next week’s meeting.

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