News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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June 7, 2013

Pa. zoning board orders removal of young girl's tree house

(Continued)

SELINSGROVE, Pa. —

Carlson has lived in his house for about four years with his wife, Fay, and Samantha. On her birthday in May, she asked her father if he could build a tree house.

The only tree on the property was the stump in the front yard.

“It’s the only place he could build a tree house,” Wiest said. “It’s a stump, that’s true, but it’s a tree stump.”

Carlson began to build the tree house, but when code officer Janet Powers saw it while driving by, she noted that it violated the zoning ordinance because it was located on his front lawn on a lot that doesn’t accommodate its large size.

After receiving notice of the violation, Carlson stopped building the tree house and asked for a zoning board hearing to make the case for a variance.

But several board members noted that a playhouse could be build elsewhere on the property that would adhere to the code. It just wouldn’t be a tree house.

After the Carlsons and their supporters presented their case, the board went into a brief executive session prior to voting.

“This is just ridiculous,” Carlson said during the break. “I never thought it would come to this. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we’d have to testify just so that I could fulfill my daughter’s wishes.”

After the vote, zoning board chairman Runkle looked out at the media members covering the meeting and said: “I guess we’re really being made to look like the bad guys. But there is the alternative we suggested that a playhouse could be built elsewhere on the property. And rather than using an unstable tree stump, Mr. Carlson could use a lumber block and build what amounts to a tree house that would be safer ... and still meet code requirements.

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