Haunted house parking plan gets initial OK

Matthew Sardelis frightened a Plantation Blood guest with a chain saw in 2010. Neighbors of the attraction complained that visitors park on land not zoned for that purpose.

 

Augusta’s planning commission on Monday approved a 200-car parking area behind the Plantation Blood haunted house in south Augusta, to the continued irritation of some neighbors who turned out to protest the decision.

Visitors have been parking at the 2.69-acre Wallie Drive tract, but opponents said the area wasn’t zoned for parking. There were 20,000 to 30,000 visitors last year during the Halloween season, employee John Carter said.

At a hearing Monday on Mark Jackson’s and Brian Carter’s application to rezone the tract for parking, Wallie Drive resident Pamela Williams urged the Augusta-Richmond County Planning Commission to “protect the sanctity and the peace of our homes” and to shield the neighborhood’s youths from “upside-down crosses” displayed at the haunted house.

Williams said the small neighborhood lacks sidewalks or streetlights and that last year a Plan­tation Blood visitor had tossed a stolen gun into her yard.

“A business should provide something or give something to the community,” neighbor James Mashburn said in asking the panel to deny the zoning request.

The haunted house occupies an old cabinet shop that was rezoned for commercial use years ago.

Speaking on behalf of the haunted house, employee and neighbor Debbie Rawlins denied there was any connection between the house and the 2010 death of 9-year-old Donovan Brown, who was struck by an unidentified vehicle about a half-mile away.

Authorities at the time said Donovan was walking home from the attraction. Sheriff’s Capt. Scott Gay said Monday that the department didn’t think the driver could have avoided the boy.

Rawlins said Jackson and Carter had already worked to block sound coming from the house, which is open about a month around Halloween.

“The only thing we need now is more parking at the back,” she said.

Planning commission member Gene Hunt said he wouldn’t want the attraction in his neighborhood, but he agreed to rezone the tract if it is used exclusively for parking and not for an expansion of the haunted house.

A motion to approve the parking passed with a single “no” vote from Rick Keuroglian.

The decision will go to the Augusta Commission for final approval.

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