Horror Hill show will go on ... for nowBy SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
Horror Hill has conditionally received a permit to operate this season, but the chance of the haunted trail staying open for future years is slim.
A public hearing on the special use permit of Allyn Glover/Horror Hill was held Tuesday before the Coweta County Board of Commissioners.
However, in 2011, the county put into place a special events ordinance that regulates various events, including those similar to Horror Hill. A special use permit under the ordinance is required for Horror Hill to operate.
The county’s planning department recommended denial of the permit, based on several factors, including the compatibility with the neighborhood, the intensity of the usage, the creation of isolated zoning districts, traffic, and the effect on the “quiet enjoyment” of the surrounding property.
“One of the things we want to do is minimize the impact of special events” on the surrounding area, said Angela White, county zoning administrator. “We want to establish a fair and efficient process ... to make sure everybody is treated fairly, and at the same time given a case-by-case review,” White said in her presentation to the commissioners.
Horror Hill is located on a 7.41-acre lot. The lot is long and narrow, said White, and “there is no space left to incorporate buffers,” she said. “If we were to buffer the front you would basically remove the parking lot ... that leaves us with the situation of being unable to mitigate any concerns.”
“You’re looking at high intensity auto traffic, nighttime hours and pedestrian traffic,” said White.
The recommendation for denial was based on the use being overly intense, the fact the size of the property prevents the establishment of buffers to mitigate adverse impacts on neighboring properties, and that the property and its design does not allow for “proper protection of the existing established neighborhood.”
The planning department recommended several conditions. Glover agreed to the conditions.
Glover started Horror Hill when he was 13. “At first, we only wanted to invite some friends over to walk through and we were going to jump out and scare them,” he said. “Little did we know that every year” it would get more popular.
“We take safety and community cohesiveness very seriously,” Glover said. He said he’s received some complaints over the years but has always addressed them.
“We want to be a fun, family-friendly attraction that brings many people to Coweta County every year to spend their money,” he said.
He said that, over the years, Horror Hill organizers have made changes in response to complaints, including adding on-site parking, and getting rid of some loud noise-makers, including an air horn and a shotgun that fired blanks.
Glover grew up on the Ware Road property but now lives in Sharpsburg. His parents moved away and the house on the property is now vacant, though it is sometimes rented. Glover started operating another haunted attraction in Kennesaw in 2004.
He told the commissioners he has spent a lot of his time at that haunted house, with managers operating Horror Hill. He told the commissioners Tuesday he will spend more time at Horror Hill this year.
Commissioner Tim Lassetter, who represents the second district, said he appreciates that Glover has been “real straightforward” in their discussions. “I appreciate the way you have dealt with me and answered questions.”
Lassetter said that, in their discussions, Glover mentioned he’d “already spent a good bit of money for this season.”
He asked Glover how it would affect him if he were not able to open this year.
“This late in the game ... tickets are already bought,” Glover said. “Flyers have been madeâ ¦ I’ve already paid for the insurance for the year, for the garbage pickup,” he said.
“I’ve spent a lot of money to get to this point. Not being able to open this year, it would hurt me bad. By no means am I rich. I’m low, middle class, if anything,” Glover said.
“It would be very tough on me. That is why I am saying give me this one chance. Give me this one chance to open and prove to people who are my neighbors and should be my friends that we can do this.”
If he has to close after this year, “I will at least recoup my money back to the point where I can afford to move,” Glover said. “I’m going to stay in Coweta.”
“Mr. Glover has been very straightforward,” Lassetter said following the public hearing. “From talking with the sheriff it seems that there were minimal complaints over the 28 years ... I know that things have grown tremendously over that period of time,” he said. “I appreciate the steps he has taken when he was made aware of issues, to try to rectify problems, to try to be a good neighbor.”
“With that being said, this is a residential area,” Lassetter added.
At the conclusion of the hearing, he made the motion he knew neither side would be completely happy with.
“I’m going to make a motion that this be approved for one year only so that Mr. Glover can operate as he planned this year with the conditions,” Lassetter said. “It will also give him time, before next season, to be able to find a location that is in a more desirable area,” Lassetter said. “And for him to show the neighbors what kind of neighbor he is going to be” as well as show the commissioners what kind of neighbor he can be when it comes to “any future request he has going forward.”
“I would certainly hope that he and his business stay in Coweta,” Lassetter said.
“And Mr. Glover realizes that if he doesn’t meet those conditions, that permit can be pulled and he can be made to close during the season.”
Lassetter’s motion was approved unanimously.
When asked after the meeting to clarify his intent, Lassetter said it was his intent that Horror Hill not operate after this year at its current location.
However, Glover can re-apply for a special use permit after this season, according to county officials.
Glover said after the meeting he thought he would be able to try again depending on how well the upcoming season goes.
“We’re happy to be able to open this year,” he said. “My main goal is to be a good neighbor this year.”
“And, after that, let the cards fall where they may.”
If Horror Hill does shut down, “it will be like losing a member of the family,” he said.