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Zoning board nixes 11-year-old girl's tree house

An 11-year-old girl in Selinsgrove, Pa., was looking forward to the tree house that her Dad was in the process of building for her as a birthday present. Imagine her dismay when she learned, after a hearing, that local zoning laws prohibited the structure and that a variance request had been denied. The result was that her father was ordered to tear it down.

The Dad, a veteran of 22 years spent in the U.S. military, was aghast at the vote, which caused tears to stream down his pre-teen daughter's face. During the hearing, which went on for over 60 minutes, the girl's family, their lawyer, and over a dozen neighbors and friends who came out in support argued that the variance should be approved. The tree house, as planned, would have been a six foot by eight foot room composed of wood, located on the stump of a tree in the family's home.

The problem was that even such a minor structure was classified as an "accessory" add on to the property, and the local zoning laws stated that it had to be set back on the property by 35 feet. The family, consisting of the girl and her mom and dad, have resided in the home for around four years. The child's birthday was in May, and her father agreed to her request for the tree house, never dreaming that it would pose any problem or that anyone would be opposed.

The property on which the home sits contains no other tree. The difficulty occurred when a code officer driving by observed it and issued a notice to stop construction. Neighbors at the hearing repeatedly emphasized that the tree house would in no way damage the neighborhood. Those planning to build anything on their property may be well advised to first consult with an attorney knowledgeable about local zoning laws.

Source:  The Daily Item, "Selinsgrove zoning board: Tree house must come down" Rick Dandes, Jun. 07, 2013

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