View Full Version : Planning Commission Meeting. Need advice!
11-28-2011, 10:38 AM
Hi everyone :) I have a meeting with my city Planning Commission in regards to opening a haunted house in my area. It's a rural area, but I'm hoping that business will go good, as I will have absolutely NO competition, along with seven cities within 30 minutes (two of them being bigger cities with populations of over 20,000). I was in contact with my City Planner for quite some time just discussing the logistics of things. He said that I would really need to work at convincing the city that it would be a good idea, as nothing like this has ever been done in the area. As I'll be the first, I want to make a good impression. I REALLY don't want to harm the haunt community due to my lack of knowledge. So far, I have an EAP (emergency action plan) plan, half a business plan, and an SOP (standard operating procedures) plan. My plan is to operate in an old market that was closed down due to business failure. Parking space will DEFINITELY be a problem, something I'm striving to address, as the building is right on main street with very little parking area. Anyways, I've never done something like this, and I'm honestly clueless as to what I should be asking...or explaining. I just really don't know what I'm doing, and my meeting is this Thursday. I would have done it later, but the City Planner is saying I need to jump in and start finding things out. I consider myself an ambitious person, so that's just what I did lol. Anyways, any advice, things I should address, questions I should ask, or just some good old simple words of comfort would REALLY be great right now lol. I'm not much of a public speaker lol. Thanx guys.
11-28-2011, 11:29 AM
having chased out one "bad" business form my town here's as a town how we saw it.
#1 are you gonna be a nuisance? I don't want people parking in my neighborhood and messing up properties.
#2 Are you gonna be loud after 8pm? Little kids need to be able to sleep if there's rural areas nearby.
#3 traffic: are you totally gonna cluster the intersection and/or side streets? Are you gonna cause a highway backup?
#4 are vagrants or kids gonna be walking around on rural streets and possibly get hit?
Basically how is your event gonna impact the surrounding community in a negative way and how will you deal with this? Tax payers don't like being inconvenienced to a high extent.
11-28-2011, 12:03 PM
Great points HP.
Poor parking can be a bad situation as you described for the comuuntiy and customers too. Hope you have a great plan.
We were a first year haunt this past 2011 season. We had a lot of "nay sayers". Don't forget to focus on the potential positives.
We won them over by answering the question, "How will your attraction help the community?"
--local high school and college students were our actors
--our local community center ran concessions and parking
giving back(portions of our profits went to a variety of organizations)
--local community center
--local high school
How you treat people, being honest, and the impact on the community are super important to building a lasting relationship. You can't be a headache to the community, you need to be a source of pride.
We wish you the best! Good Luck. We know how stressful those meetings can be.
11-28-2011, 12:41 PM
I am assuming there are other businesses left around you who have and need parking for their customers. Could another business who has ample parking possibly benefit from the patrons that you will be attracting? If so, maybe that other business could be OK with your patrons parking there for these few nights of the entire year?
If nearby business owners could see your enterprise as benefiting them, then take some supportive statements or better yet some of those people to the meeting with you.
Maybe this will all come to pass if you have more time to investigate these possibilyts, everything worth anything takes time and work.
11-28-2011, 12:56 PM
don't go up and say umm..or ahh... that shows your not prepared. do a dry run with someone and have them toss you curve balls.
Positives in general are:
Keeping kids off the street.
Unique entertainment value to the area.
Perhaps parking fees if not split with a business go to the volunteer fire dept? They'll get you fire or police explorers to run the parking lot if so.
Thus your funding FD dept.
Have a town event for the tax payers.
Have a little kids day without the scare.
Be prepared for a hard stop at X time if you're in doors or out. If indoors you can get he people in by X time an still run fairly quietly. If you fail to do so you'll be fined and have any permits rejected possibly too. DON'T tell the PZC you don't agree with anything. Simply state you have a way to address that issue or will get back to them on a solution to that issue that's amicable to both parties.
In my situation, my event is going to be in a warehouse type structure with it's own parking lot not to close to any homes. The added car traffic is going to go by quite a few businesses both local and small hence free advertising.
Talk about improvements to the building. If its a vacant building, what are you going to do to the facade so that it looks good when its not decorated.
If you are renting, have the owner discus the difficulty of renting the property and this is a great opportunity to bring some traffic back to the this part of town.
Benefits to other businesses like gas stations, restaurants, shops.
11-28-2011, 04:09 PM
I want new haunts to start all over and I love the excitement of a new haunt and hope you do well with it. However, as some of the people above have addressed parking......I would not think about this lightly. Do the math......if the average car spends 45 minutes at your attraction and you are open from say 7-11pm that parking space is only open for 5-6 cars a night. Now if you only have say 30 parking spots and there are 3 people per car that is basically 150 people per hour MAX. That is not counting the other businesses using some spaces, and the bad thing is that on your busy Saturday nights all of the cars will come at once. I would make sure that your business plan doesnt say 1000 people per night to make payroll and your parking prevents you down to say 600. Maybe a shuttle from a nearby parking lot? I would also meet with the buildingcode/fire marshal BEFORE the meeting so that you know the answer to those questions too. For instance.....if the building changes to an assembly occupancy or special amusement building from anything else then you have to bring it all up to code (can get expensive quick) if you are buying the building, if you are renting then the property owner has to do it and I doubt they will. Lots of things to think about and lots of questions will probably be asked because people are so uneducated about haunted houses, but good luck and hope you get everything in order and start another good haunted house!
11-28-2011, 04:17 PM
The more you talk with facts they can use to decide the better it will go. Talk employment, other haunts how they have been good for thier areas, that people going to your haunt will do business with other local food places etc.. The parking issue is major!
Getting past the planning commision is often easy its the zoning board, trustee or village counsel where problems usually occur. The process of boards differ greatly from goverment to another!
12-02-2011, 09:34 AM
This past year Monster-Tronics created a new haunt entertainment company called Reanimation Services and opened our own haunt. The first meeting I had I went in prepared with documentation to hand out to all at the meeting. You say you have some documentation done so far. What I gave was a proposal which included most of the items mentioned above by others and info about the industry and myself and my company. I included a copy of my MT flyer, business card and it never hurts to give out some free junk like my MT pens attached to the proposal and a MT pocket screwdriver set.
My proposal was laid out like a mini business plan, who, what, why, etc also focused heavy on safety since most authorities are concerned about all of the fly by night haunts that are unsafe and are just trying to make a buck. Not just about your own internal safety plan but how your going to work closely with all of your local authorities, police, fire & building inspectors (or for your area might be a fire marshal), etc... I had a large paragraph on safety and also had one copy of my larger multi page safety plan that I just pulled out and held up while going over that paragraph. That you'll have insurance, all the basic business stuff, since this is a business first and the fact your scaring people is second.
Also include some haunt industry facts (not sure if it was mentioned above) which you can get off the HAA website. The avg Joe Blow does not even know there is a haunt industry with a lot of professionals in it.
Lastly, do homework on them too, who they are and many will have their own businesses, how far is a the fire station from the haunt, etc... Don't look like a bum for the meeting and don't wear your favorite bloody carcass t-shit.
Hope this helps,
Innovators in Haunt Technologies
See What's Spawning In The Monster-Labs at:
12-02-2011, 10:08 AM
All I can say is that I didn't go in with a "Can I do this? aptitude. But a "Tell me how I can make this happen?" Know your stuff. Read everything on code that you can. Be prepared. It is a long road but so worth it. They were so much more helpful when I think they realized I was not going away. I wish you the best.
12-02-2011, 02:38 PM
As long as you follow all the codes, you should be good to go. There is nothing they can do to stop a business for coming in if you are willing to follow all of the fire & building codes. Negotiating these codes is where things get tricky. To follow all the codes can be extremely costly. For example, let me list to you all the regulations for a California Haunted House:
-all walls & decorative materials are fireproofed with fire retardant by a certified fire applicant through California.
-water-sprinkler system installed.
-smoke detector every 900 sq ft
-fire strobe light fixed to the ceiling every 2000 sq ft (ish)
-fire alarm system hooked up to all strobes & smoke detectors to go off if anything goes off, as well as a voice command system that can alert people to evacuate
-fire alarm system hooked up to all haunted house lights & sounds so that all lights and sounds turn off automatically if the alarm goes off.
-emergency lights (E-Lights) to turn on if power shuts off, (need about 1 every 500 sq ft)
-fire extinguisher every 75 ft along your haunted house route
-need emergency exits within the haunt every 75 ft of maze.
-all temporary partitions (haunted house walls) to be bolted into the cement (an engineer can figure out how deep to drill, mine are drilled 3 inches into cement). This may only be necessary if there are earthquakes in your area.
-need support beams on the top of your partitions to add extra support.
-need to follow electrical regulations, including no extension cords and insuring all wires are closed, boxes are closed, and wires are tied up and out of harms way. Sometimes they make a certified electrician do the work.
Might seem overwhelming, but just wanted to give you an idea before hand.
Best of luck,
12-05-2011, 09:58 AM
Hey, I just wanted to thank everyone for all the great advice and words of encouragement :) The meeting went great! Though I'm not a public speaker, and I kind of embarrassed myself lol, they were very eager to help. They even solved my parking issues for me. So yea, I guess I'm doing it inside a rodeo stadium, which has power to it, has great parking and crowd space, and is all locked in, so I won't have to worry so much over people trying to steal things during the night. I told them I was doing it non-for-profit for now, and that all proceeds would go directly to the city in any way that was needed most, or recommended. The Planning Board is gonna spend three months talking about Haunted House regulations in their area, as I'll be the first Haunt they have ever had to deal with, and I let them know I would be ready to meet again as soon as they came to some conclusions...which will be the first Thursday of February :) They also asked if I was a business that would ever go away...to which I told them "most definitely not" lol. Honestly, the meeting was kind of fun, and the Planning Board was very light and joked around a lot, which made it easier. They also asked if I ever planned on becoming a for-profit business, to which I let them know that if my Haunted House proved to be a success for a couple years in a row, that I would most definitely become a for-profit businesses. They honestly seemed enthusiastic about the whole ordeal. They also loved that I had an EAP plan and SOP plan to show them. Anyways, I just wanted to let everyone know that things really worked out, and that so far its still looking really positive for me :) thanx again guys!
12-08-2011, 11:37 AM
Congrats! Good luck to you on continuing your journey.
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