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View Full Version : So I meet with the town planner and officals today



HauntedPaws
04-24-2012, 12:08 PM
Boy was that a little overwhelming with 10 town officials grilling you left and right. However afterwards it seemed to have been a positive discussion.

Dark Scares
04-24-2012, 03:08 PM
Glad to hear things went well.

mrfoos
04-24-2012, 07:38 PM
I'd love to hear the questions you can remember if you feel like typing them up!

HauntedPaws
04-24-2012, 08:45 PM
There were fewer questions then I would have liked but let me see..

In attendance:

Asst fire marshall
Health Inspector
economics developer
Environmental
Town Engineer
Police Chief
Asst Town Planner
Town Planner


"Are you going to sell food and merchandise"
"Does the property have septic or sewers" then I mentioned having port-a-potties "Do you want to have port-a-potties?"
"You're going to need refuse containers"
"Space may be more littered then you realize"
"How many parking spaces do you have?" here I use a factor of 3 meaning the average people in a car will be 3 so if you have 50 spots you can take in 150 people. If your show is 1hr then you can have 150 new people every 1hr but it's best to allow for some overlapping, so for 150 people you may want parking for 225 people or 75 spaces.
"Are you going to give all your charity contributions to just one charity or multiples?"
"What age range and are 13-15yr olds dropped off, or do they require parental supervision"
"Is this a legit business?"
"What sorta of signage, we don't allow much"
This was the oddest question yet "Is this business profitable?" 1) why do you care? 2) Why would I go through the trouble of dealing with town official to intentionally lose money?

That's the majority of what I can remember. It was a little overwhelming wondering what are these people thinking of me, I don't wanna say something to cast a negative on me, am I answering the question. Don't mention getting larger or to large before you get your foot in the door to you can manage a small crowd.

Afterwards I thought to myself I wonder how much more entertaining this meeting may have been if Shane was speaking on my behalf :cool:

mrfoos
04-24-2012, 10:48 PM
I keep wondering what the deal is with this concept that all haunted houses should contribute a portion of their profits to charity. It's not that I'm against charity but it isn't a default expectation for any of industry.

SeanMassacre
04-25-2012, 10:42 AM
Why do haunted houses have to contribute to charity? Or rather, why do villages want us to? In our village that we host our event, we had 2 officials come for the walk through and they were more impressed with everything we presented them at first than having any questions. They saw the emergency lighting, and exits and where happy. we are a temporary haunt. Kill them with kindness!!! Have more paperwork on your props and products than they know what to do with.

HauntedPaws
04-25-2012, 12:36 PM
You don't I just wanted to.

Cliff
04-25-2012, 02:24 PM
I was thinking this year I would create $1.00 or $2.00 vouchers,(idea i picked up at TW) give them to numerous charities in the area… High School football boosters club, women’s shelter. Then give them the face value of the vouchers that were redeemed ….maybe make it a $1.00 off ticket price as well. Nothing wrong with a little cross marketing right??

Michael Inks
04-25-2012, 03:25 PM
I keep wondering what the deal is with this concept that all haunted houses should contribute a portion of their profits to charity. It's not that I'm against charity but it isn't a default expectation for any of industry.


Aside from just basic philanthropy and wanting to help your fellow man, I think a lot of haunts will team up with a charitable organization in exchange for actors and other support. Aligning with a respected charity can also drive attendance by lending credibility... a stewardship that must be respected! But done well, it can be a nice partnership.

BrotherMysterio
04-26-2012, 11:31 PM
Aside from just basic philanthropy and wanting to help your fellow man, I think a lot of haunts will team up with a charitable organization in exchange for actors and other support. Aligning with a respected charity can also drive attendance by lending credibility... a stewardship that must be respected! But done well, it can be a nice partnership.

Also, it's a sign of good will, which can go a long way. It's also a form of mission based marketing, which is perhaps the strongest kind of marketing of all, right after word-of-mouth.

mrfoos
04-27-2012, 01:17 PM
Also, it's a sign of good will, which can go a long way. It's also a form of mission based marketing, which is perhaps the strongest kind of marketing of all, right after word-of-mouth.


Hmm. If that were true then why only the haunt industry? I'm a small business owner, read a lot on marketing, and meet lots of small business owners. I've never met anyone or even read about about anyone who donates a percentage of their business profits up front to charity. Now most do personally donate to charity but it certainly is not a part of their business plan. And those who do donate tend to be the established types... not starters.

Michael Inks
04-27-2012, 03:51 PM
I think it makes more sense if you look at the history of haunted attractions. Today the haunt industry has grown into these fantastic bar-raising Hollywood quality mega-productions, but it didn't start there. The biz largely began and grew out of non-profits themselves who would produce a haunted attraction as a seasonal fundraiser (think Jaycees, Shriners, even church groups, etc.)

And then there are those (who have other jobs) who started haunted attractions in the non-profit business model with the intentions of donating the proceeds to a charity simply because they love haunting and aren't interested in making money from it. So it is, in a lot of cases, a different model entirely than the average for-profit small business that a person launches to make an actual living. (Not a lot of people would open an accounting firm and donate the proceeds simply because they love math :))

It is true though, that recently there have been a lot of folks enter the haunting world with dollar signs in their eyes with the full intention of bringing home buckets of money. Like all fields, some succeed and some fail.

But proudly, the haunt business has a long association with philanthropy and helping their fellow man....or woman... or homeless pets... or...

And HAUNTED PAWS.... So sorry for hi-jacking your thread!!

(And to be fair, I'm sure there are many accountants who love their job... but you know what I'm saying...)

HauntedPaws
04-27-2012, 03:53 PM
I'm gonna hijack my own thread back now as I wasn't inquiring about why haunts do charity I'm choosing too and I'm good with that choice.

Just received feedback from the town on the following items and any feedback would be appreciated as I'm sure some of you have already worked these out

3. Staff has great concern about how traffic and parking at the site is going to be handled. There
are between 57-60 parking spaces available for the whole site. It was stated at the meeting that
between 50-60 employees would be required each show night. An additional 50 patrons per show
would be on the premises observing the show with the possibility of 50 patrons leaving the site and
50 patrons waiting for the next showing, as well as potential patrons trying to get tickets at the door.
Looking at the neighboring site, it does not seem that it would be conducive to shared parking
because the available parking is on the opposite side of the building. We would also not want to see
parking on the street, within the right-of-way, or on grass, etc.

This seem like a little bit of a half manufactured problem. I could do quite a number of things. I gave them a figure of every car on average brings 3 people to any event. So if I have 57 space that's 171 people an hour which is far under the 100 I'm figuring. There is also a large strip mall about 1mil away and patrons and volunteers could park at and take a shuttle bus or something to the site.

4. If an agreement is reached for off-site parking, proof of that agreement will be needed to ensure that
adequate parking and transportation to and from the facility (if required) can be provided.

Perhaps working out an agreement with the property of the strip mall mentioned above would remedy #3 & #4

5. There is also a concern that the middle tenant space is currently not rented at this time. In the
future, any number of uses could go into this space that would require the use of parking spaces at
the time the haunted house is operating, either limiting the number of parking spaces available to
employees and patrons or causing safety concerns.

The landlord representative and I told them the end tenant didn't care and this middle space doesn't even have a front entrance as the whole building was leased by one tenant originally.

6. This site is in close proximity to another that provides outdoor storage, which is a concern. With
the number of anticipated patrons, many of whom are anticipated to be teenagers, security becomes
a concern.

This one is puzzling because the "neighbor" has a storage container outside the building but is hardly the provider of storage? They manufacture and test lighting. Also they amuse all teens are coming, and all teens are juvenile delinquents.

7. Environmental Planning
A litter control plan will be required.

This would no more then refuse barrels? However unless they're bring dinner I don't see how there could be much litter as I'm not planing to sell food the 1st year only 20oz sodas. Maybe teens like to bring full trash bags with them places?

8. Fire Marshal
This building meets the definition of “Special Amusement” and therefore all code requirements for that
occupancy will be applied. In addition to the stringent code requirements and the concerns we have
for general fire and life safety within this type of occupancy, this particular site presents a number of
unique challenges, such as providing adequate emergency services access to the building while trying
to accommodate the amount of vehicular traffic that will be present. We also have a safety concern
with inviting so many under-supervised children into an industrial area with possible truck traffic and
the hazards of out of doors storage.

Here's another strange look at it. This building currently as one tenant with 2-6 employees who run a distribution hub for a regional company and they leave at 4pm everyday? The tenant at the adjacent building is similar and told me they're open 9-5. The location is directly next to a highway on/off ramp too. I think the unsupervised children comment falls on parents doing a drive and drop off not me. Additionally most of the "children" are teens and they're unsupervised 80% of the time when outside anyways. I'm also planning on having security on site too.

9.Health
Health Department concerns are as follows:
• enough bathroom facilities for the large amounts of people coming to the shows (internal
bathrooms-site is a warehouse and bathrooms are designed for warehouse);
• if using porta-potties, issues include vandalism when left out during days and nights not being
used;
• have adequate portable handwash sinks for porto-potties;
• would need to have a litter control plan for the site;
• need a license and permit to sell or give away any food product;
• appears property has a septic system for wastewater disposal – would need to have calculations
regarding bathroom usage by public as well as employees to ensure system size is adequate and
will not be overloaded.

At a larger haunt in my area they only have 4 port-a-potties for some 1000+ people a night and I've never seen a portable handwash sink at any outdoor event? I'm hoping for 500 a night which I doubt I see. How do others stop porta pottie vandalism? You need a license to sell closed soda bottles? As for the septic couldn't I have it drained every week? I saw storm drains on site but I didn't see any septic tank structure?

I feel like the town wants to sandbag me but maybe this is how they usually are?

thanks for your input.

zombietoxin
04-28-2012, 10:23 AM
... a litter control plan... lol

Yes, this is what all haunts go through.

It may seem like they are riding your arse hard sometimes- but they're not really. You are asking them to "sign-off" on your concept which does not make them liable, but does directly reflect on their job- which could lead to and end, possibly, if they display a pattern of negligence. Does some of it seem trivial or punitive? Yup, but there is no way around any of it- only through it.

So consider yourself on the right path- you have a list of tasks you must accomodate in order to do business. Get to checking them off by fulfilling and/or negotiating them. Try to get approvals in writing too, even if it is only in a general letter or email correspondence.

This is the business side of the haunt and its as much or more work and cost than scaring your guests.

Every situation is going to be different, so it's difficult to give you the "right" answers for all your questions, but I can tell you this- making your fire marshal happy will be the greatest asset you will ever have. Long after all the other pencil pushers have faded away, the fire marshal will be there with the same intensity and concern as day one. And for good reason- life safety. You need to prove to him/her that you know as much or more about the requirements, and what you are doing about them, as they do. Ask questions, schedule meetings, ask for extinguisher training, etc...

These officials meet regularly for various reasons, and you will be the subject of conversation periodically- building allies will help you tremendously.

Many of the things you listed are a matter of building codes. Don't bother asking them to bend a code or two for you- they won't. Instead ask them for help meeting the minimum requirements. It's not their job to do this, but most people are helpful by nature, and they may offer a tip that saves you money and makes them happy at the same time. If you can- exceed the requirements and them let them know about it- brownie points.

Welcome to Haunt Ownership 101. I myself just finished that course (along with 50 others) and have signed up for Haunt Sustainment 200.

Good Luck!

Michael Inks
04-28-2012, 01:56 PM
Wow, nice post Zombie! And keep it at Haunted Paws! In the very very worst case scenario, if this location doesn't work out, you'll know exactly what to expect and what bases need to be covered for the next one.

Mike Goff
05-01-2012, 09:16 AM
It's amazing how far we have come. Not just the haunt industry, but every small business in America. We now plead our case as to why we should have the privilage to be self-employed. They have so convinced us that we can only conduct business while being in their good graces, that we now take the new guys under our wings and show them how to be a good inmate.
I'm not busting anyones balls, Zombie Toxin is 100% right. Diplomacy will be your most valuable tool in getting through this. I agree that we must be safe, we must get along with our officials, but I would like to remind everyone of where we came from, and where we are going. The fact is, that the code is not all about safety, anyone with an ounce of sense will immediately recognize that their are ridiculous flaws, and that it is more about big business, than keeping us safe. Also remember that safety and liberty are inversely proportional. It's great that their are so many here that champion safety, once in a while it would be great for someone to champion our right to do what we love to do, and to earn a living while doing it.

Just once in a while.

Good luck with your endeavor, and don't risk more than you can afford to lose.

scottylmt
05-01-2012, 09:27 AM
Thank you Haunted Paws for posting this I am learning a ton.

For what its worth, I went through some of the same stuff when starting my massage therapy clinic. The haunt industry has so many more facets tho, and you're dealing with many more people. I do agree some of those are a bit outlandish tho; esp the one about unsupervised teenagers... what the hell do they think happens at a movie theater or outside a school dance?

I agree with the above advice, keep making friends by being polite and ASK for solutions. I did that with my clinic and easily got through a few snags.

I also agree there's more to it than safety, its about keeping their grip on us business owners. I call it the back door tax system... all these "licenses" and inspection fees is just state and city taxes in disguise, with a small splash of safety concern thrown in...

HauntedPaws
05-02-2012, 01:52 PM
Today after all the "questions" I called about what I need for a building permit and the guy knew who I was already apparently he was at the meeting and I just don't have enough parking. I sugegstions on remedying the parking were met with "I doubt it" He suggested a 2ndary site which was about 3x as expensive as the one I was planning to use. I think those of you with indoor haunts must be millionaires already because these warehouses don't run cheap least up here.

HauntedPaws
05-08-2012, 10:23 PM
So I had thought I would be approved by the town by June. However today's round of info puts it at July 12th. That seems like a heck of small window to try to go from zero to ready in unless I can afford an army of carpenters. One hiccup and I'd probably be sunk too.

BrotherMysterio
05-09-2012, 12:02 AM
So I had thought I would be approved by the town by June. However today's round of info puts it at July 12th. That seems like a heck of small window to try to go from zero to ready in unless I can afford an army of carpenters. One hiccup and I'd probably be sunk too.

And after you've run that gauntlet, you still get to have the Fire Marshall and Building Inspector sign off on everything post-build, or you don't open for the season.

C.