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Montgomery County Halloween-themed display gets go-ahead

Tuesday - 10/15/2013, 11:14pm  ET

hauntedgarden.jpg
Neighbors in Montgomery County don't want Donna Kerr's Halloween decorations on display this year and are taking legal action to prevent it. (TheHauntedGarden.com)

UPDATE Oct 15, 2013 9:12 p.m.:

A Mongomery County District Judge has spoken. Donna Kerr's annual "Haunted Garden" display can go on.

But it won't happen on Halloween.

Judge Patricia Mitchell ruled that the display could run for two nights, instead of five, however, The Washington Post reports. The temporary restraining order preventing Kerr from putting up her display is now disolved and she has the go-ahead to hold the event on Oct. 25 and 26.

The ruling was made on the basis that the public in the neighborhood could handle two nights of possible disruptions, but five was too many.

EARLIER Oct. 7, 2013 11 p.m.

WASHINGTON - Donna Kerr wanted to give her neighbors a scare with her admittedly "over-the-top" Halloween display, but it may not happen after complaints led to a restraining order aimed at blocking the event.

For the past three years, she set up a professionally-lit and staged display on her Silver Spring, Md., property, complete with volunteers dressed as scary figures and acting out spooky scenarios. This year, her "Haunted Garden" would feature an 18- foot-tall witch and a number of creepy scenes that visitors could enjoy.

But for this year, Halloween, at least the way she planned it, is canceled.

Neighbors complained to Montgomery County and now a temporary restraining order calling off her hair-raising event has been issued. A hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 15, just days away from when Kerr planned to kick off the haunted evenings.

Kerr says she was aware that neighbors had complained that the Haunted Garden generated traffic and noise concerns, but other than being cited once for having a sign displaying the logo for her real estate company, there was no problem. She says Friday's court action blindsided her.

"For every person that objects, there's probably 10 or 20 people that love the Garden," she says.

Kerr says staging the event is her way of saying "thank you" to a neighborhood that's supported her business. But neighbors have complained the connection to her business, Pure Energy, is at the very heart of the problem. The court documents state "Defendant Kerr knows that her company cannot conduct the promotional Haunted Garden in a residential zone."

The documents cite Pure Energy's Facebook page, where the event is advertised.

But Kerr says the event is separate from her business.

The restraining order trial to see if the Haunted Garden can continue is set for Oct. 15. (TheHauntedGarden.com)

"Everybody has a job. I happen to be a real estate agent. This is something that I do at my home. I'm not promoting my business at the event -- there's no admission charge," she says.

But neighbors also cite concerns that the residential area, which features narrow streets without sidewalks, is no place for hosting such a large-scale event. The court documents allege in the past, visitors urinated in area yards and that the hundreds of people drawn to the event over a period of five nights generated "a traffic nightmare."

Kerr disputes the allegations and says in the past she's "worked with the county and we had a police officer there on premises in the event that anything happened."

Kerr says she's hoping she can hold the event this year.

"It brings the community together and allows people to meet each other and to have a fun time with their family and their kids," she says.

Some images of Kerr's past Haunted Gardens can be seen online or check out the video below.

WTOP's Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @KateRyanWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

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