GARDNER, Kan. — Next week the Johnson County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) will consider issuing a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for a temporary Halloween haunt event in Gardner.
Robert and Tammy Doleshal are requesting a CUP to host the drive-thru event Jack’s Hollow at their home at 30450 W. 143rd St.
If the permit is approved, Jack’s Hollow would be open from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings throughout October. The site will be decorated with props and lights along the property owner’s driveway for visitors to view from inside their cars.
Visitors will also have the option to park in a designated fenced parking area at the end of the driveway where drinks and candy will be provided.
The property owners intend to use the event as a seasonal fundraiser for the Secret Santas organization that provides Christmas gifts to area children in need. Admission to the haunt is free, but the homeowners are requesting visitors donate a new, unwrapped toy or make a cash donation to support the organization.
Jack’s Hollow was previously a private, one-night event with limited guests that did not feature a drive-thru.
Sean Pendley, deputy director of planning, development and codes, said because of the pandemic, last year the property owners opted to host a drive-thru event that unintentionally became a large public event.
“Last year the owners had this activity and they did not limit the number of visitors to the site. At that time the owner was not aware that this use required a conditional use permit,” Pendley said.
Pendley said last year the owners did not limit the number of visitors to the site, causing traffic to back up along 143rd Street. This year, the homeowners intend to use the website Sign Up Genius for visitors to select a time slot for the event.
“Volunteers will be working throughout the site and also working along 143rd Street to help with traffic control. They had volunteers doing this last year and that seemed to help with the coordination of the site,” Pendley said.
Reservations will be required to attend the event. No more than 30 time slots will be available each half hour, capping the total number of visitors at 240 vehicles per night.
“I think Sign Up Genius is a step, but I don’t know that it’s going to remedy the traffic flow, because the communication to residents to use the Sign Up Genius, I would think is a difficult item,” Commissioner Jeff Meyers said.
Commissioners Shirley Allenbrand said while she supports the cause, she has concerns about traffic management and safety.
“To me when there is a special event, usually the Sheriff’s Office gets paid for that, because of having someone on staff. We’re talking [about] hundreds and hundreds of people going through here. I’m very concerned about safety. I’m concerned about Med-Act if something happens,” Allenbrand said.
Pendley said if the permit is approved, the sheriff’s department would be made aware of the event schedule so deputies can assist with traffic needs if necessary.
The board is scheduled to vote on the permit at the next regular meeting on Thursday, Sept. 15.