Holiday spirit is in the air, but for Donna Kerr, who goes all-out decorating her yard for Halloween, the saga of an injunction against her Haunted Garden hasn’t ended.
On Tuesday, Dec. 17, Montgomery County District Court Judge Patricia Mitchell decided to delay her decision until after the holidays on whether to shut down the Haunted Garden in Silver Spring. A specific date has not yet been set.
“She wanted to carefully consider everything and give a written verdict so as to be specific and not open to interpretation as much,” Kerr wrote in an email to The Gazette.
The Haunted Garden is a free, large Halloween display at Kerr’s Silver Spring residence on 9215 Worth Ave. It made some neighbors from the Seven Oaks Evanswood community worried about parking on narrow roads, children’s safety and whether the community could handle the thousands of visitors Kerr expected to come and see the free display.
Kerr opened her first Haunted Garden in 2010 after decorating her yard for a humane society fundraiser.
To get the word out about the garden the next year, Kerr used the website of her company, Pure Energy Real Estate, and a mass e-mail list.
In 2011, she was cited by Montgomery County Department of Permits for having her company sign and logo as part of the display in a residential zone.
Nineteen of Kerr’s neighbors signed a petition asking the county to shut down the display.
Mitchell signed a temporary restraining order on Oct. 4, saying the display violated the county’s residential zoning code and caused a public safety hazard.
Mitchell ruled on Oct. 15 that Kerr could open her backyard for visitors only on Oct. 25 and 26, from 6 to 10 p.m., instead of the five days Kerr had planned.
During the two nights the display was open for visitors, nearly 2,000 people visited Kerr’s backyard.
Kerr’s immediate neighbors are in favor of the display. Some have said the festivity hasn’t been a problem, and did not see anything wrong with Kerr’s Halloween extravaganza.
“We had a tremendous amount of attendees due to all the media ... so we had more people through than we normally would have and it was still a very organized [event] and we provided a safe, fun and family event,” Kerr said.
County officials said Kerr sent fliers to an estimated of 12,000 households promoting the Haunted Garden.
After Mitchell’s Oct. 15 decision, the county asked the court for a permanent injunction against the Haunted Garden due to the growth of the event, noise, and zoning complaints.
“I hope the judge will do the right thing for the neighborhood,” said Diane Schwartz Jones, director of the Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services.
Schwartz Jones said the display is a “very clearly business activity,” adding that during the last display, Kerr had a sign-in sheet asking for names and emails both days her backyard was open for visitors.
“This is for her clients,” Schwartz Jones said.