BRADENTON -- A couple on York Drive West built a haunted house on their property last year, looking to raise money for charity and provide a Halloween attraction for locals.
"It's basically a fun way to give back to the community. Who doesn't like going through a haunted house?" said Brad Myers, who works as a police dispatcher for the city.
They're trying to do it again this year and spent the past couple of weeks buying more than $2,000 worth of supplies and building up the temporary structure in their yard. But city officials told
them this week that they have to take a major portion of the temporary structure down by Sunday, or be fined.
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"We had a lot of problems last year, and they finally told us that as long as it wasn't attached to the structure of the house and wasn't hard-wired with any electricity, then it was OK to be here," Myers said. "Then this year they told us we had to email the guy who told us it was OK, and now they tell us it's not OK this year."
"It's very frustrating," Jessica Myers added.
Myers said code enforcement officials told them that the part of the haunted house in their front yard is considered an accessory structure and therefore is against city code. Accessory structures can be anything that isn't a part of the original residence building, such as a shed or detached garage, according to Tim McCann, public information officer for the city of Bradenton, and city code dictates that they cannot be in a residence's front yard.
McCann said he wasn't aware of city officials telling Myers last year that the haunted house would be fine in the front yard if it was unattached and unwired.
"My understanding is an accessory structure is anything not built as part of the original property structure," McCann said. "I'm not aware of any specifics on wiring or any of that."
McCann said he's not sure what prompted code enforcement to go the Myers' house, but he did know the city received complaints about the project last year and this year.
Whether an accessory structure is temporary doesn't matter under city code, McCann said.
The Myers said they'll try to make sure the haunted house is up and running in their backyard by the planned opening night Oct. 17, but taking down the portion in the front yard means it'll be difficult, especially since they already started later than last year.
"Tearing this area down means we've pretty much got to start from scratch," Brad Myers said. "I've got to start marking everything down today when I get off of work, and start the slow takedown."
After complaints last year, the Myers said they tried to make sure they were clear to build the haunted house and tried to address problems people had by handing out fliers explaining the purpose of the event and starting construction a few weeks later.
"We made up a flier and we took it around and said, 'This is the reason why we're doing this, we're donating to the Save Our Children Coalition,'" Brad said.
The Myers pay for the structure and decorations out of their own pockets and don't keep any of the proceeds. Money made is only spent on water for the volunteer characters in the haunted house and the rest goes toward the Save Our Children Coalition. They also host a canned food drive on opening night.
"Last year we were able to give $600 to the Save Our Children Coalition, we had a truck full of canned foods the first night and we had about 700 people come through," Jessica said.
If the haunted house is finished on time, the Myers said it will be open from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Oct. 17, 18, 24, 25 and 31. It's at 3512 York Drive W., Bradenton.