The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


June 8, 2014

Samantha’s tree house a victor

Parachuting monkey 12-year-old’s housewarming gift

SELINSGROVE — Turns out Samantha Carlson gets the last laugh, one that can be heard at the Selinsgrove Borough Building, where the zoning hearing board crushed the little girl’s birthday dream of a front-yard tree house after an eight-month ordinance dispute.

Samantha’s tree house, ordered to be razed earlier this spring, has been relocated and is being reassembled at 22 N. High St., in the backyard of family friends Noelle and Cindy Vasquez and a half-block from the borough building.

The tree house John “J.C.” Carlson began to build for his daughter’s 11th birthday in May 2013 now sits 6 to 7 feet above ground and atop what remains of a huge felled oak.

Seems Victor Vasquez, 7, wanted a tree house, too, and here was J.C. Carlson with a freshly made frame he had to remove from his front lawn eight blocks away, at 701 W. Spruce St.

With five grandchildren in the Vasquez family, it became a natural fit that the tree house move there, and Samantha can come play and hang out in it whenever she wants, Cindy Vasquez said.

The families attend the same church, Victory Baptist in Shamokin Dam.

“I knew it would be for the good in the end,” Carlson said Saturday, getting ready to help Vasquez with construction.

“She still gets to have it, and all these other children get to enjoy it, too.”

Borough officials “can look out their window and see it,” said Faye Carlson, Samantha’s mother, which made her kind of glad.

However, she said the whole experience “was a good lesson for (Samantha): You can’t always get what you want.”

In May 2013, J.C. Carlson was about to finish building the tree house for Samantha when the borough zoning office informed him the structure was illegal, deemed an ordinance violation because it was on his front lawn on a lot that doesn’t accommodate its large size.

The zoning hearing board denied a variance request that June that would have saved the tree house, but public outcry stoked the fight.

J.C. and Samantha Carlson were even interviewed on Fox News, and 500 of Samantha’s classmates signed a petition to the borough to let the house stand.

The issue went as far as Snyder County Court, where Senior Judge Louise Knight in January upheld the zoning hearing board’s decision.

The borough was careful about issuing a building permit for the tree house at the new location, Cindy Vasquez said. Officials visited the property to see where the house was going and checking things out before issuing the monthlong $20 permit.

Victor is excited about his forthcoming playhouse in the air, though he’s not sure what he’ll do in it yet.

“Just play around,” he said.

Samantha on Saturday brought him a house-warming gift: A monkey on a parachute that Victor can drop from the house.

Everyone hopes construction is finished by June 30, though it has cost about $400 “and it’s not even done,” Vasquez said.

That total doesn’t include the trailer he bought to haul lumber and whatever else he needs for the project from Lowe’s, where he made two trips just on Saturday.  

What remains of Samantha’s original tree house? Pretty much everything, including walls and a roof.

But there is siding and two or three windows and even a deck planned for the structure, now much larger than its original 8- by 6-foot size.

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