A screaming halt ordered

Dispute: Ghoulish Rosedale attraction doesn't meet community, or zoning, standards.

October 26, 2002|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Kim Yates has closed her haunted house display in Rosedale for Halloween, which, for her, is sort of like canceling Christmas.

A likeness of Michael Myers, the evil stalker from the Halloween movies, has been taken from the roof. Monsters and cobwebs no longer adorn the bushes on her front lawn.

All that's left is an old hearse parked in her driveway - a prized possession of the 38-year- old State Highway Administration employee who has made all things Halloween her passion, such as the coffin in her living room. She's even named her dog Boo and her cats Spooky and Freaky.

The main attractions at "Kim's Krypt" will be closed this weekend, under orders from Baltimore County authorities who said she did not have the proper permits to operate a haunted house.

Neighbors had complained after long lines formed outside the home this month and eerie screams wafted beyond her property line.

"The kids are going to miss it," said Yates, who has run a haunted house in eastern Baltimore County for nearly a decade. "It's like going to see Santa at Christmas. At Halloween, they come to see me."

Yates said she has staged haunted houses several times at her home and in commercial space she rented. The neighbors complained then, too, but she was never shut down.

Yates' problems began this month when the commercial space she had planned to rent for her haunted house wasn't available.

Yates decided instead to use her home on Berkwood Road, where an electric chair sits in the dining room year-round.

She was quickly cited by Baltimore County zoning inspectors for operating a haunted house without the proper permits.

She was fined more than $10,000 and told to remove the sign on her front lawn advertising the opening of Kim's Krypt and to close the attraction.

Yates wasn't eligible for a permit because there had been complaints about the house in 2000. One was from a woman whose elderly parents live in Yates' neighborhood and who wrote to Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. He, in turn, asked county inspectors to be aware of the haunted house, according to county zoning records.

David Taylor, a county code enforcement officer, said it's illegal to have a home occupation that spills out into the yard, takes up more than 25 percent of the residence and employs more than one person.

"The haunted house violates most of that," he said.

Yates said she thought by paying a $10,000 fine, she'd be permitted to stay open weekends through Nov. 3.

"I figured I'd already paid the price, why not go ahead?" she said, knowing the $5 donations she collects from each person who walks through the ghoulish display wouldn't cover the expense.

Yates said most people like her haunted house - and the fact that it gives youngsters in the area something to do. She uses a crew of teen-age helpers who must be drug- and alcohol-free to work at the haunted house.

"The kids enjoy it," said Peggy Lee Elliott, who lives down the street and whose sons got to see this year's display before it shut down. "It didn't bother me."

But it bothered one of her neighbors, who called 911 twice on Oct. 18, according to police records. Officers found more than 30 people standing in line and recorded that screams could be heard 100 feet from the house.

Police said they were clearing a crowd that was dancing in the back yard when Angela Martin, a friend of Yates, approached an officer with a video camera and a bright light, and refused to take the light out of the officer's face.

Police said the women would not cooperate and were arrested. Yates' lawyer has advised her not to discuss details of the confrontation with police.

On Oct. 19, Yates said she and Martin were collecting signatures on a petition in favor of the haunted house from people who had stopped by for tours, but who had been told the house was closed for the season.

Someone complained again. Police said the haunted house was still open that day, with patrons waiting in line in the front of the house.

Yates tried hiding in the kitchen when the officers arrived, according to police reports. She was arrested again that night.

Yates is scheduled to appear in court next month to answer allegations that she operated a haunted house without proper permits.

She also faces five criminal charges, including two counts each of resisting arrest and disturbing the peace.

"I believe this is all a big misunderstanding," Yates said, noting she wasn't even wearing her severed head costume when she was arrested the second time.

"We had closed already. I told people we'd reopen - next season. I'll find another place for it."

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