Jul. 29—WINDSOR — The owner of the Haunted Graveyard — the popular, ghoulish more than a mile-long walk of horror that has operated annually around Halloween at Lake Compounce for about 20 years — is exploring the idea of moving the attraction to Windsor and expanding it to include a Dicken's village and possibly spring and summer events as well.
Ernie Romegialli of Middletown, who started the attraction decades ago — it's now billed as "New England's largest Halloween attraction" — went before the Windsor Planning and Zoning Commission on July 13th for what was listed on the agenda as a "pre-application scrutiny" regarding possibly relocating his Haunted Graveyard attraction sometime in the future to property at 1001 Day Hill Road, which is in the industrial section of town.
The Haunted Graveyard last operated seasonally at Lake Compounce, the Bristol-based amusement and waterpark, for in 2019 and but didn't open in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For this Halloween, it is relocating to Quassy Amusement & Waterpark in Middlebury, Romegialli said, so his idea of moving it permanently to Windsor would be at some point in the future.
According to minutes of the July 13th meeting, Romegialli, who owns Graveyard Productions LLC, explained to the PZC his idea of building a "scream park" in New England and that "he would like to double his haunted cemetery in size with multiple entrances and have Halloween attractions around it."
He also told the PZC he wanted to expand his attraction to add a Dickens village and "eventually do summer and spring events."
Romegialli said this week that he hasn't yet submitted an application to the PZC to operate in Windsor because he's still in talks with the property owner.
He said his idea to add a Dickens village to the attraction would be Christmas-oriented to extend the season and be "more family friendly." He also said he'd like to have the site be open throughout the year.
"I'd like to develop a scream park where you pay admission through online sales and go through as many haunts as you want," he said. "You walk through most haunts. This would be a continuous path of haunted houses around the green and you'd have a choice of where to go and when," he said.
But, he cautioned, "These are just preliminary ideas in my head."
THE HAUNTED GRAVEYARD
WHAT: Owner Ernie Romegialli is exploring possibly relocating his famous Halloween attraction to Windsor.
WHERE: 1001 Day Hill Road.
PROCESS: A pre-application scrutiny of his idea was discussed by the Planning and Zoning Commission on July 13.
Mayor Donald Trinks said today it's hard to speculate about what an attraction like the Haunted Graveyard would do for Windsor until the town receives an application, but it's always good to have a varied group of businesses in the town.
"The Day Hill corridor is very diverse in its businesses, including commercial, industrial, and a women's softball league that's wonderfully busy and draws people from all over New England and beyond," he said. "It's good to have a mix of worldwide businesses here in Windsor."
Town Planner Eric Barz confirmed this week that the town has not yet received an application from Graveyard Productions.
He said getting the Haunted Graveyard attraction established in Windsor would require amending zoning regulations to allow that kind of activity in an industrial zone. Barz said the town would also have to write requirements for how the attraction would be regulated and secured.
According to Barz, should a change to zoning regulations be approved, an applicant like Romegialli would then need to apply to the PZC for a special use permit.
Batz and several members of his staff went to Lake Compounce to experience the Haunted Graveyard. He said the town's fire marshal and building inspector have also reached out to Lake Compounce to see how the attraction was permitted.
During the July 13th meeting, PZC member Elaine Levine asked how noise from the Haunted Graveyard would be handled. Romegialli said that based on how far back on the property the attraction would be located, noise would not be an issue. He said there would be a stage for entertainment and that the sound could be directed.
Barz said at the meeting that while the site where it's proposed the Haunted Graveyard would be located was listed on the PZC's agenda as 1001 Day Hill Road, the property only fronts there and that the attraction would be located in the rear, on Baker Hollow Road.
According to the meeting's minutes, Levine said she has many questions about Romegialli's idea but acknowledged it would be interesting to explore it and see where it leads.
The minutes also detail that PZC member Alexander Correia would like to see the Haunted Graveyard come to Windsor, adding that it's a "cool idea."
Romegialli, a retired teacher, said dealing with a planning and zoning panel is new to him but he was impressed and encouraged by the PZC' reaction during the July 13th meeting.
"I wanted to see if there's any interest in town for this," he said. "The PZC treated us very nicely, they were friendly, and there were no negative comments."
It was in 1991 that Romegialli started the Haunted Graveyard in his back yard, decorating the family's home for Halloween as a way of taking his young daughter's mind off the fact that she couldn't have candy because she'd been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, according to information provided on the attraction's website.
It then led Romegialli to another venture — he decided to give people "a good scare" around Halloween with what would become his famous Haunted Graveyard while raising money for the American Diabetes Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the website says.
At one point the Haunted Graveyard was located at Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, then moved to Lake Compounce in 2000 where it offered a 45-minute walk over a mile, with more than 14 different-themed 'houses' and more than 200 ghouls, the website says. 'The "scares" have included a foggy, hellish cemetery, catacombs, a slaughterhouse, bat cave, zombie hospital, shadowman's swamp, and a lair of lost souls.
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