WEATHERFORD – One of three lawsuits filed against the City of Mineral Wells in November is now over after the plaintiffs dropped it.
A hearing was scheduled for Friday morning in a Parker County district court concerning the suit brought by Katherine and Edward Estes and The Haunted Hill House, however on Thursday notice was issued to the court they are dismissing it.
Katherine Estes declined comment about the case’s dismissal. Their attorney, Hunter Magee, of Bedford, did not return a phone call.
Mineral Wells City Manager Randy Criswell said he was relieved when he was told Thursday afternoon of the lawsuit’s termination.
“I am not sure I understand (the reason)” Criswell said. “I’m not unhappy about it. I hope that is an indication we can get this resolved.”
He said the Esteses to date have not requested a commercial certificate of occupancy and inspection.
“No they did not do that and they have not done that,” Criswell said.
In December Magee indicated no business was being conducted at the property, and Criswell said he believes that to still be true.
“As long as that is the case and no business is being conducted in the house we will continue to try and work with them to get the place legal and get them doing what it is what they want to do,” Criswell said. “Their options are conduct no business in the house or pursue the venues for a (certificate of occupancy.)”
The lawsuit stemmed from a dispute over the business on N.E. 1st Street obtaining a business certificate of occupancy – an inspection by the city to ensure the property met necessary commercial codes. The Esteses received a residential certificate of occupancy from the city, but when the property was rezoned to commercial, the city said a different inspection and certificate of occupancy issuance was needed for it to operate as a business.
The city said the Esteses refused to allow inspectors inside the property, and claimed they were entitled to receive their commercial occupancy certification based on the residential inspection and the city was denying them their CO. They sued, requesting the court issue a declaratory judgment against the city, ordering it issue the commercial occupancy certification without further inspection.
The city disagreed, saying in their formal answer to the petition the Estes weren’t denied a commercial certificate of occupancy because they never requested one. The city stated in its answer the district court lacked jurisdiction in the case because the property owners and not fully exercised options under city ordinance, which would include appeal of a decision to the city’s Board of Adjustments.
The city also took a position in its answer that it was immune from litigation in the matter based on state law, and said the business was operating illegally by not having a commercial building inspection and occupancy certification.
At a Dec. 2 hearing, 415th District Court Judge Graham Quisenberry let lapse a temporary restraining order against the city and said the Esteses could apply for a certificate of occupancy and city inspectors could go onto the property.
Located behind White’s Funeral Home, The Haunted Hill House has hosted haunted tours and overnight parties and has become a popular attraction for people drawn to paranormal experiences. The Esteses acquired the residential property in September 2018.
The city issued the Esteses a “cease and desist” letter last May, instructing them to terminate operations until the property was in compliance.
Two others suits filed in November against the city were brought by Mayor Christopher Perricone and Matt Campbell and his American Precision Ammunition business. Both are pending in federal court.