Party Central: Benton denied construction for mobile haunted house

JC Clements, owner of Party Central in Benton, alleges that the city of Benton will not allow him to construct a mobile haunted house on the vacant lot next to his business without legal precedent.

In a post to the Party Central Facebook page on July 1, Clements states, "As most of you know, I put on a haunted attraction at Party Central each year called 'The Torture Chamber.' I generally employ about 30 extra people during this time right before Thanksgiving and Christmas. This helps me of course, but my Haunt also helps provide extra money to those in need during the holidays.

"In the past several years we have also donated money to help others and charitable organizations. This year as well I've made a commitment to donate part of our proceeds to charity. My intentions were to put on a second haunt theme on our vacant lot next to Party Central in a mobile concept that can be easily removed."

Clements said that he intended to purchase and park five trailers side by side and assemble the haunt inside, have it ready for Halloween, and then remove them after the holiday.

He said, "I had an auction coming up where I would be able to purchase the trailers; that's why I went to check on it."

Clements asserts that Jim Towe, supervisor of the city's community services department, stated quickly and definitely that it would not happen.

Clements said he brought up the trailers located on the Johnson's Home Center lot and claims that Towe stated the city didn't want those there either, but they were already there. Clements said he asked if there was some legal reason for his rejection and was told he could apply for a permit if he wanted to do so, but the request would not get approved.

Towe stated that their conversation took place about three months ago and that Clements was asking to place two 50-foot, 18-wheeler trailers on the vacant lot permanently. Towe stated that Clements was not inquiring about a permit because there would be none to acquire in this case.

Towe stated that the structure would look bad "appearance wise" and would require approval from the fire marshal due to electricity running into the trailers. Towe also stated that he believed the permanent trailers would violate a city ordinance which establishes cleanliness standards for the city.

According to Ordinance 48 of 2012, "It shall be unlawful for any person within the city to permit any of the following conditions to exist on any lot: The placement of any large storage container on a city street or upon private property for a period of more than four months. This provision shall not apply to large storage containers which have been placed on private property for commercial purposes for any business with a duly issued city privilege license. All storage containers must however maintain a professional business appearance and shall be kept clean and not become unsightly." However, the ordinance also establishes a trailer as an inoperable vehicle and does not allow "the storage of one or more inoperable vehicles for a period of seven or more calendar days other than in the connection with an automotive repair enterprise."

Towe maintained that Clements never asked about acquiring a permit and that their conversation was pleasant. Towe stated that Clements could apply for a permit for a permanent structure for his haunted house.

Clements stated, "There are some things I'd like to do in the future within the city limits. Making too big a stink will just cost me down the road. It's too late to fix what occurred at this point. It's just a shame that one person pretty much decides what's best for Benton, and the only way to get around that is to (as a small business owner) put yourself at risk trying to go around them or go public."