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Village Vision News

Variance granted, treehouse saved

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Ordinance No. 942, an ordinance approving a variance to the accessory structure regulations at 695 S. Elwood St., was part of the new business portion of the agenda for the board of trustees meeting on May 4.

In this instance, the accessory structure in question was a treehouse located in the corner side yard of the home owned by Clinton Johnston.

Johnston first appeared as a petitioner at a public hearing on April 23, before the Planning and Zoning Commission. He said then that he had built the treehouse in 2009 and did not know that it was a violation.

Johnston said about two years had passed after he first received notice that the structure did not meet the legal standard.

Bill Busbey, chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, asked Johnston a few questions at the hearing. When Busbey asked if the commission should change the ordinance, Johnston said he didn’t think so.

“Is it a substantial detriment to neighbors?” Busbey asked.

“I don’t think so,” Johnston replied. “I’ve never got any complaints. I’ve got many compliments, in fact.”

Johnston described the design of the structure as “not enclosed, open … you can see right through it.”

He went on to say that it was safe and pretty well built, noting that no one had ever been hurt. And, he said, it’s not without some rules.

“Kids have to have parental permission,” he said.

Alternate member Terry Taylor asked if Johnston would be amenable to taking the treehouse down once his children turned 18.

“No, I’d like to see the grandkids play on it,” Johnston said.

Johnston’s next-door neighbor, Bill Pitts, spoke at the podium on behalf of Johnston and his treehouse.

“I have no issue with the treehouse. I support Clint,” Pitts said. “It’s not unsightly, and I’m his direct neighbor.”

From there, the issue was sent on to the full board after the commission voted to recommend approval of the variance.

The only No vote came from member Kris Quandt.

To support his treehouse cause, Johnston delivered 26 certified letters at the board meeting on May 4.

Busbey told trustees that Johnston’s request had been approved by his commission 5-1.

“We approved it,” Busbey said. “It seemed like the right thing to do. Nobody ever complained (about the treehouse).”

Village staff member Emily Prather, who works on planning and zoning issues, pointed out to trustees that the location of the treehouse in the corner side yard is where the violation technically occurred.

Trustee Bob Gruenewald wondered why this treehouse, built six years ago, had become an issue at this time.

Village Attorney Jeff Jurgens said the reason had to do with cleaning up violations dating back two years.

Gruenewald asked if this was the only treehouse in violation of the code, and Prather replied that it was.

Trustee David Wendt made the motion to approve, which was seconded by Gruenewald. All votes were Yea, and the variance was granted.

“You have saved the treehouse,” Mayor Marilyn Johnson proclaimed, to which someone in the back of the room, presumably the treehouse owner, let out a “woo hoo!”

“Thanks, guys,” Johnston said. “Party at the treehouse.”

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