The City of Mineral Wells was hit with its third lawsuit this month when Katherine and Edward Estes, operators of The Haunted Hill House, filed a petition and obtained a temporary restraining order in a Parker County district court.
The lawsuit was initially filed Nov. 14, and then amended Nov. 19, in the 415th Judicial Court, presided over by Judge Graham Quisenberry. It is the same court where Mineral Wells Mayor Christopher Perricone filed his lawsuit against the city on Nov. 4.
Katherine Estes appeared previously before city council on at least two occasions asking the city issue their business, located at 501 N.E. 1st Street, a certificate of occupancy or face a lawsuit. The Haunted Hill House is a commercial venue that hosts haunted tours and overnight parties and has been featured on television programs dealing with paranormal phenomena.
With her husband, Edward, behind her, Katherine Estes addresses Mineral Wells City Council on Sept. 3.
The Esteses say after they acquired the property they began making renovations and improvements. In September 2018 they said an inspection for certificate of occupancy was conducted, with several things listed as needing remedy. They said another inspection on October 2 cited other shortcomings. On Oct. 5, they say a third inspection resulted in a finding that the property passed inspection and was recommended for approval a certificate of occupancy issuance.
The lawsuit says their city utility account was changed from the name of the previous owner into theirs. However, they said the city refused to issue the CO, stating that the property needed to be rezoned from residential to commercial.
The Estes said they continued operating their business without a certificate of occupancy while working to comply with the city’s rezoning request. The lawsuit states that complaints began to be filed against their property, “many of them anonymous, and Plaintiffs believe and intend to show in the prosecution of this suit that these complaints were made at the behest of 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.”
City council approved the rezoning classification in August following approval by the Planning and Zoning Commission a month before and that City Manager Randy Criswell told both the planning board and city council members that the property had passed all its inspections.
However, Estes said the city still refuses to issue a certificate of occupancy and in the suit accuses Criswell of saying he will never approve issuing them one following her appearance before council in September.
Previously, city officials said they wanted to conduct re-inspection of the property following the rezoning from residential to commercial since different standards and ordinances apply. They have been denied. Estes said the previous inspections and approval should merit awarding the occupancy certification.
A restraining order issued Monday and effective immediately prevents the city from terminating any utilities or services at the property; entering or coming onto the property; interfering with their business operations; or disturbing the peace of the plaintiffs or their customers. A hearing on the restraining order was set for 9 a.m. on Dec. 2.
A third lawsuit against the city, and other defendants, was filed Nov. 19 in federal court in by American Precision Ammunition.