The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

June 12, 2013

Mayor neutral as tree house dad considers zoning appeal

By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item

— SELINSGROVE — The controversy over a proposed tree house will likely rage this summer as property owner John “J.C.” Carlson prepares to appeal the borough Zoning Hearing Board’s decision that would force him to tear down the partially built structure.

The five-member zoning board voted unanimously Thursday to deny Carlson a variance to finish construction of a tree house he was building for his 11-year-old daughter, Samantha, on a tree stump in the front lawn of their 701 W. Spruce St. home because its location was in violation of the borough code.

Board chairman Cyril Runkle suggested he build a playhouse on another part of the property, but Carlson said the front lawn is the only place that has a tree. He plans to appeal to the Snyder County Court of Common Pleas.

“Never in my wild dreams when I hammered that first nail did I think it would come to this,” he said Tuesday.

The appeal must be filed within 30 days of the zoning board’s written decision.

A county judge will review the transcript of the zoning board hearing and exhibits the members considered if the issue goes to court.

The battle has drawn the interest of many in the community and beyond, primarily critics of the government’s refusal to grant a young girl’s birthday wish for a tree house.

“I see both sides of the coin,” Selinsgrove Mayor Sean Christine said.

On one side, he’s opposed to government over-regulation. But on the other, he knows the trouble the borough could attract if it eases the law for one special interest.

“What’s to prevent people from putting up a camper or some other (structure) on their front lawn?” Christine said. “And what it someone gets injured? People would complain that we had an ordinance to prevent (the tree house) but granted a variance allowing it.”