Silver Spring haunted house receives restraining order
SILVER SPRING, Md. (WJLA) - Montgomery County wants to shut down a Silver Spring woman's elaborate backyard haunted house.
Since Oct. 2010, Donna Kerr has welcomed more than 4,000 people into her Haunted Gardens along the 9200 block of Worth Ave., but the holiday tradition could be in jeopardy.
Last Friday, Kerr received a 37-page temporary restraining order filed in the District Court of Maryland, which seeks to restrict her from opening the gates this October. The case names Montgomery County as the plaintiff. Kerr and Silver Spring-based Pure Energy Real Estate, which she works for, are listed as defendants.
"It's made me sick to my stomach when you have people hating on you and you're trying to do a nice thing for the community. It really hurts me," Kerr said.
At least 11 neighbors in the Seven Oaks - Evanswood Citizens' Association say Kerr's 10-minute trek-of-terror creates a traffic and pedestrian safety hazard in an area with narrow streets, limited parking and few sidewalks. Additionally, they argue the spooky spectacle has drawn larger crowds by the year, creating a public nuisance in an area not zoned for commercial use.
"Nobody wants to be seen as non-accommodating, but I think that from the beginning, a number of people and I would put myself as one of them, saw this as an accident waiting to happen," Hamilton Ave. resident Jonathon Shurberg remarked.
According to court documents, last October, Montgomery County Police and Department of Transportation workers had to post "No Parking" signs along Worth Ave. and Hamilton Ave. to remind visitors of neighborhood rules. The county argues it shouldn't have to drain tax-payer dollars to keep Kerr's enterprise in line.
"This is being blown way out-of-proportion. We're talking about 11 neighbors who are against this. They shouldn't be able to dictate what the vast majority of this neighborhood now looks forward to," Kerr added.
The Haunted Gardens are open five nights from 7-10 p.m. This season's schedule included Oct. 19th, 25th, 26th, 27th and the 31st. Although there are no records of how many guests walk versus drive, Kerr and her team of artists and support staff estimate it's about 50-50. Many of the guests are neighborhood residents like 4th grader Johnny Dodd who last year walked the path with friends on his swim team.
"It's where kids can go and have fun and see scary stuff. Why would you shut it down when kids are enjoying it," Dodd asked.
Next Tuesday both parties will state their arguments in front of a Maryland District Court judge. Until then, Kerr and her staff say they'll continue prepping the yard, confident their side will be heard.
"The county has taken away my rights, they've taken away my due process. To just be told flat out that you're not doing this or the full force of the county will be sent down on your back... It's just wrong," Kerr added.