Following an injunction hearing on Wednesday, Oct. 11, the Area 13 haunted attraction in Oxford Township closed for the season. The property had been facing legal issues related to zoning for a while.
Area 13 was located on an old military base on Todd Road, and problems arose because the property is zoned for agricultural purposes, not commercial.
David Fehr, a department head in the building and zoning department of Butler County, said the attraction was not allowed within the agricultural district.
“This is a commercial activity in our opinion, and we don’t allow commercial activity in this particular agricultural district where the property is off of Todd Road,” Fehr said. “So they could do that somewhere else, but not in that area of the township.”
Fehr also said that the owner was sent a letter stating not to have the attraction, but went ahead with it anyway.
“Based on my knowledge from this week, he’s chosen to ignore that letter,” Fehr said. “It’s not allowed to run. He’s been told he’s not allowed to have that.”
At the injunction hearing, held at the Butler County Court of Common Pleas, Judge Keith Spaeth ruled that Area 13 was not allowed to run.
Though disappointed by the results of the hearing, Jesse VonStein, owner of Area 13, agreed with the ruling.
“He in fact ruled that we had not had a fire inspection, which although I tried, he is correct,” VonStein said. “He ruled that we did not have a building inspection, and again, I tried and tried and couldn’t get anybody to come out.”
Clara Ashby, a childhood friend of VonStein’s, said that it had been a good learning experience putting the Area 13 attraction together.
“It’s been a really insightful and really fun process putting together a haunted house,” Ashby said. “The property that we were able to work with, being an actual 1960s missile silo, was super interesting.”
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VonStein has been in the haunted attraction business for 30 years. With the money earned from the attractions, VonStein helps purchase Christmas presents for children in low-income areas and cover pay-to-play fees for children’s sports. He said he’s disappointed he won’t be able to help the community in the same way this year.
For VonStein, the next step is to fight the injunction on a permanent level.
“I am putting my ducks in a row. I have not quit yet; I’m not that kind of guy. But I also have to be smart,” VonStein said. “So I’ll talk to my attorney. I’ll see where we take the fight from here, and right now I’m just kind of taking a minute to digest, and I’m looking over documents to see what my next move is.”