Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Government Knows Best: City of Austin Attacks Child's Treehouse

"But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea."
Mark 9:42

Mike Meroney jokes about what would happen if he planted an endangered critter in his treehouse. If the treehouse became protected habitat, maybe the city wouldn’t be telling him that he has to get rid of it.


On May 7, a city code compliance officer left a notice in the Meroneys’ yard in Northwest Hills that said their treehouse had to go, since it violated city code and didn’t have a permit.

Mike and his wife, Shannon, want to keep the treehouse, since Mike is building it for their little boys: Griffin, 6, and Cal, 7. The issue has caused a peaceful neighborhood revolt, the kind where the neighbors gather and grill under a treehouse.

Just about everybody on the two-block street has signed the Meroneys’ petition to save the treehouse. Shannon said she simply hasn’t been able to reach the one neighbor who hadn’t signed it.


Meanwhile, the treehouse sits up there, incomplete. Although it has walls and a door with a doorknob.

“At this point we’re a little bit flustered by the whole thing,” Mike said. “I’ve been building this treehouse since February, going up there on a Saturday morning for an hour or a Sunday afternoon for an hour. For four months I’ve been putting this treehouse up, and the neighbors have come by, and they’re excited about it. And the kids in the neighborhood are excited about playing in it.”

The Meroneys contacted the city to try to find a way to keep the treehouse. But they’ve discovered it probably can’t be done, and even if it could, it would be expensive, take a long time and require enough red tape to wrap Christmas presents for everybody in Northwest Hills.

“They were not very specific because they said there really wasn’t a treehouse permit,” Shannon said. “They said we could apply for a variance, but it would involve several city departments and probably would require us to buy an insurance policy that would indemnify the city.”


Meanwhile, the city has been pretty coy about the situation. It took me two days to get a response from spokesman Kyle Carvell. “There is not a height or depth limit to the right of way,” he said in an email. “City staff review and issue license agreements on a case-by-case basis in an effort to ensure the safety of all residents.”

On the other hand, Mike said he was told by a city right-of-way official that the city’s right of way goes up to 17 feet.

Either way, you’ve got skyscrapers downtown blocking the view of the Capitol. And the city of Austin is messing with a treehouse?

It’s all a major bummer for the Meroneys. They got the idea to build a treehouse from watching Treehouse Masters, an Animal Planet TV show that features a builder who designs fancy treehouses. The Meroneys’ two boys saw the show and decided they wanted one.
Because who cares about property rights when petty tyrants have rules to enforce?!?

Read the whole thing here.

Like the 'Save the Front Yard Treehouse' Facebook page here.

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