WEATHERFORD – A Parker County judge on Monday let expire a temporary restraining order against the city filed by the owners of The Haunted Hill House.
415th District Court Judge Graham Quisenberry said Katherine and Edward Estes can apply for a certificate of occupancy for the property and the City of Mineral Wells can come onto the property and conduct inspections to see if it meets business property code standards.
"Application can be made and the city can do its due diligence on whether that certificate can be issued," Judge Quisenberry stated.
The judge kept the case active. What it means going forward for the N.E. 1st Street venue is unclear.
City Attorney Andy Messer declined to call it a victory for the city. However, the judge's ruling indicates the court believes the city is entitled to enforce its property standards and regulations.
"I am pleased with the way the court ruled," Messer said afterward.
The ruling also means the Esteses will likely need to obtain certification if it wishes to operate going forward. Located behind White's Funeral Home, The Haunted Hill House is a commercial venue that hosts haunted tours and overnight parties and has become a popular attraction for people drawn to the paranormal.
"She can't operate without a certificate of occupancy, just like any other business in the city," Messer said.
Attorney Hunter Magee, representing the Esteses, said Judge Quisenberry "kind of flipped the baby" with his ruling. He said Monday's decision, in his opinion, did not necessarily mean the Esteses can't continue operating without a CO.
"Kathy and Sonny's position is they are entitled to the certificate of obligation," Magee said. "We are going to have to work something out."
The Esteses filed suit against the city Nov. 14 after speaking before city council requesting the city issue them a certificate of occupancy or face a lawsuit.
The couple acquired the property in September 2018. It was zoned residential. A third inspection in October 2018 passed and it was recommended for issuance of a CO.
However, the city then said the property was operating as a business and needed to be rezoned to commercial. The Esteses continued operating the business while working through the rezoning process, which city council approved this past August.
City officials contend that while the property passed residential inspection, a different set of codes and standards apply for commercial properties and a re-inspection is required. The Esteses have reportedly refused to allow the city re-inspect, demanding they receive the certificate of occupancy previously approved.
The city issued the Esteses a "cease and desist" letter in May, instructing them to terminate operations until the property was in compliance.
The couple in its lawsuit allege a conspiracy between the city and "persons working in concert with the City whose intent is to wrongfully deprive Plaintiffs (and many others) of the use, benefit, and ownership of their property as part of a larger land grab scheme being carried out in the City.”