The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

June 15, 2013

Tree house splits Viker house

Councilman backs girl’s gift; zoning board wife against

By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item

— SELINSGROVE — John “J.C.” Carlson said he was pleased to have the support of Selinsgrove Councilman Erik Viker during his controversial attempt to build his daughter Samantha a tree house on their front lawn.

But Carlson was dismayed to learn Viker’s wife is one of five borough Zoning Hearing Board members who voted to deny his request for a variance to keep it on his property.

“Isn’t that a conflict of interest?” Carlson inquired.

Carlson’s attorney, Joel Wiest, said he doesn’t believe there is a conflict because Viker has “publicly stated he would have found in favor of J.C. That negates any conflict because there is no prejudice.”

Viker has commented frequently on social media discussions about Carlson’s tree house but did not return several calls to The Daily Item.

His wife, Brenda Fabian, also did not return a phone call.

Fabian and the four other Zoning Hearing Board members voted unanimously June 6 to deny the variance that would have allowed Carlson to continue building the tree house in his front yard at 701 W. Spruce.

Carlson’s tree house violates the zoning ordinance because it is located on his front lawn on a lot that doesn’t accommodate its large size and is deemed an accessory structure.

In the days leading up to the hearing, Viker, a Libertarian, made several online comments about the issue.

“All zoning laws need to be systematically reformed to make sure they are not needlessly infringing on property owners’ right to do whatever they want to do with their property, provided nobody else’s rights are being violated. ‘Because it’s a rule’ is a cowardly way to govern,” he said in one discussion.

Carlson plans to appeal the Zoning Hearing Board’s decision to the Snyder County Court of Common Pleas once a written decision is rendered.

Wiest said it’s the only option despite Zoning Hearing Board Chairman Cyril Runkle’s suggestion that Carlson could build his daughter’s tree house in the back yard.

“There’s no other tree on the yard and it’s a safety hazard if he has to put it in the back yard,” Wiest said, describing a sloping back yard that’s not as easily viewed from inside.

Carlson was building the 8-foot by 6-foot wooden structure to celebrate Samantha’s 11th birthday in May.