The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

June 10, 2013

Bucket load of civic passion


Daily Item

---- — Selinsgrove's zoning hearing board appears to have had neither the authority nor perhaps the inclination to help Samantha Carlson and her dad build a tree house in the front yard, much to the dismay of human beings everywhere. Remaining positive and redirecting efforts may get the job done yet.

Here we are, locked in a test of government of the people, by the people and for the 11-year-old. Surely, goodness and a temporary variance will follow in no more than a few days of our lives.

A tree house is (and pardon the officious prose here) one of a number of accessory structures permitted as a customary use incidental to a primary residential use under the borough zoning ordinance.

Just not in the front yard -- where Samantha's father chose to position the play house on an utterly forlorn stump that was once and appears now to be the only or most substantial thing that looks like a tree.

For performing their civic duty with utmost, maximum, ultimate, supreme precision, the poor five appointed members of the zoning hearing board have now had their names dragged through the press at least twice for turning back a retired-military dad on the eve of Father's Day, bringing tears to a sweet little girl and evoking flashback outrage from anyone who has ever experienced customer service at the hands of a government agency.

This can be fixed, possibly without further vilification, by turning to the Selinsgrove Borough Council, the elected local governing body that appoints members to the zoning hearing board and the group of people actually empowered to amend Section 140 of the borough code, which, according to Councilman Erik Viker, is the rule everyone is worshipping.

Viker, the historically first Libertarian Party candidate elected to office in Snyder County and a one-time aspirant for the state Legislature, engages the public more openly and frequently than most elected officials in the Valley.

Recently commenting about the tree house story on dailyitem.com, Viker observed, "As a member of Borough Council, I think it's unfortunate that this sort of passionate response to government action is missing when it is time for citizens to run for local elected office."

Possibly true. But, thanks to Samantha and her father, J.C. Carlson, there is a bucket of passionate response to government and an opportunity to demonstrate public service.

Go for it.