Some neighborly folks in Juanita have been building a haunted house in their front yard for the past 14 years and it has become a beloved tradition for local families to visit this labor of love. The tradition ends this year as the City of Kirkland has deemed the structure to be unsafe and without the prescribed modification (see below), the structure cannot be built.
We were connected to the story via the Be Neighborly Kirkland group on Facebook when a reader asked if we might be able to shed some light on the subject. We contacted City Hall and received the following response from Marie Jensen:
The structure that the Facebook post references was tagged by the City on October 14 because it's size requires a building permit and because it was placed in the front yard setback. A building permit is required for a structure over 200 square feet; this structure is over 400 square feet. The zoning code does not allow the structure to be in the setback area.
The City's Building Official visited the site. He has had conversations with the homeowner. There is no building permit application on file with the city. In the opinion of the Building Official, the structure is unsafe because it is not structurally stable and it is covered with a flammable tarp. The structure would not withstand a windstorm. The current covering poses a fire hazard.
The Building Official offered the homeowner the option to reduce the size of the structure to less than 200 square feet (no building permit would be required), use a fire retardant material for the covering, or remove the covering. If the owner chooses to use a fire-resistant covering, the City would still need to evaluate the structure for stability.
The homeowner has advised the City the structure would be removed on Saturday. The City trusts that it will be removed when the homeowner said it would.
The City recognizes that the homeowner's long-standing Halloween tradition is appreciated by those who visit it but it is the City's responsibility to ensure structures to be used by the public are safe for occupancy.
The original posting on Facebook is quoted here:
Please BE ADVISED! For any & all of you who have enjoyed the annual Kirkland Haunted House on 108th... The creaters & hosts came home last week to a Cease & Desist order served by a Code Enforcement Officer. Monday the owner spoke with the City's office & explained about this 14 year annual gift the family gives to the community, free. Today the builders & hosts were phoned by Mr. Phillips, Kirkland's Building Department Manager, who officially shut the structure down...as it currently is! He wanted them to cease or cut it WAY back-which would be too small to accomodate the crowds which have been in the hundreds. The owners are devastated! This has been a gift they, & numerous volunteersn have given to kids & adults alike for 14 years. The magic & awe of Halloween. PLEASE feel free to copy/repost this to get the word out. The hosts will continue to enjoy the joy of trick-or-treaters...just no haunted house. Pass this on!
Thank you to Marie Jensen for the quick response explaining the city's perspective. Thank you to the neighbors who have helped make Kirkland a great place to live by sharing and building traditions.
We wish everyone a safe and happy Halloween.