Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Zombie Nativity Scene Returns

Last year's zombie nativity scene generated so much publicity and online traffic for Ohio haunted house operator Jay Dixon that he decided to set it up again this year for the holiday season. And, just like last year, officials in Sycamore Township are determined to shut it down.

Dixon reviewed the local ordinances and concluded that he could legally set up the display without a permit as long as it took up less than 200 square feet - according to him it takes up about 65. He applied for a permit anyway, just to be sure, which town officials promptly denied. Dixon is being threatened with a fine of $500 for every day the display remains up.

According to Sycamore Township officials, Dixon needed a permit for the macabre display this year. But when he applied he was turned down, and now he faces a fine of $500 per day for every day he leaves it up. Having gone through the same situation last year before dismantling it, Dixon began soliciting donations earlier this year to cover the expected financial sanctions.

Friday night on his Facebook page, Dixon wrote: “We were going to take it down, decided to leave it up, all the lights are re-hooked and open for business just no roof. Let’s see what happens.” According to Dixon, his request for a permit was denied because local authorities said his display violated the town’s zoning code by taking up more than 35 percent of his front yard.

“I got all the paperwork and how it was wrote out, and it says as long as it’s not over 200-square-foot that I can have it without a permit, and it’s about 65 square foot,” he explained, adding that he thinks the council hates the zombie theme. “I think it’s the theme,” he explained. “It just rubs people the wrong way. That’s why they’re coming down so hard on me.”

Of course it's the theme. I'm willing to bet that if somebody set up a traditional nativity scene that took up their entire yard and was bigger than 200 square feet, town officials wouldn't care one bit. I realize that traditionalists consider the concept tasteless, but I think it's funny. And I don't see why the law is being applied against Dixon in a discriminatory manner.

It's not clear from the article whether the "less than 20%" requirement is a regulation that Dixon missed in his research or if town officials are basically making it up to get rid of the display. From the photo, it looks like un the former case he might be able to shorten the fence in front, move "Mary" and "Joseph" closer together and squeeze the two "wise men" under either side of the roof, which would take up substantially less space and look about as effective.

I don't have the time to drive out to Ohio to see it, since the drive is something like fourteen hours from Minnesota. But if it were here in my home state, I would definitely want to make sure I checked it out before it was taken down.

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