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Boys given treehouse, receive impromptu civics lesson

Boys given treehouse, receive impromptu civics lesson

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BILLINGS, Montana — A boy and his brother are petitioning to save a birthday gift some neighbors complain is against zoning regulations: a treehouse.

Logan Olson, 8, had a big wish granted for his birthday last April: he, his parents, grandparents and brother Dillon, 12, built the 17-foot-high, 80-square-feet treehouse in the front yard of the family's home. When it was finished in June, Logan and Dillon used it as a hangout with their friends, and for occasional sleep-outs.

The problem came when someone lodged a complaint with the city that the family had not obtained a building permit, according to the Billings Gazette.

The building wouldn't have been a problem because of how small it was, but the fact that it was not technically "on the ground" led to another problem: it would now be classified as an "accessory structure," meaning it had to be at least 20 feet from the property line. Logan's treehouse was 5.5 feet from the property line.

When the boys found out about the problem, they hit the pavement, inspired by their mother's petitioning that summer to bring streetlights to their part of the street. They and their friends walked the neighborhood, gathering support for their treehouse.

In all, 61 people signed their petition requesting a variance. One person said he didn't like the treehouse, and another suggested to the family they burn the treehouse down.

"It was a bad time of year to do it because of all the political stuff," Kacey Olson, Logan's mother, said.

Olson said the reason the treehouse was built in the front yard was because the only tree in the back is an evergreen. The city zoning coordinator told the paper all code complaints have to be investigated, but she leans toward granting a variance to the boys due to similar variances having been granted in the neighborhood in the past.

"It's not out of character for the neighborhood," she said.

Image credit: Billings Gazette

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