Letter to the Editor: Ugly affair in Orangeville
I'm hesitant to even write this letter yet I feel this is a situation that warrants conversation. I don't live here in Emery County, more specifically, Orangeville. I left the county about 10 years ago and have since lived all over the country and even out of it a couple of times. I do manage a trip back each summer which is usually an enjoyable, rewarding experience. However, this year's summer trip has turned into an ugly affair. What was supposed to be a two and a half week trip to build a family tree house has turned into a battle with the City of Orangeville.
Let me explain more clearly. I am the proud mother of two children who also happen to be the pride and joy of their grandparents. My father has been planning for quite some time to build a tree house for his grandkids. One would think that something as simple as a tree house wouldn't warrant concern from the city. However, making that assumption would be a huge error as I've learned. I would like to start by saying that a tree house is obviously something that involves a tree, in this case an enormous tree, that practically had taken over my parents' house. In the interest of safety and quality of construction my father chopped down an enormous portion of the tree and left a level stump on which to put his tree house.
Once my family arrived, construction on the tree house began. Several days of morning to night work ensued and with each passing day the children's excitement grew. You have to know my father to understand the time and effort that has gone into this little project. Believe me when I tell you that and enormous amount of time and energy and to be frank, money, has gone into this tree house. My father took vacation days to work on the tree house.
Just as my father and husband are finishing up the roof and I'm planning on what furniture to put inside for the kids, we get a friendly visit from the Orangeville zoning official. We are informed that our tree house doesn't comply with code. We are written up for failure to get a building permit and a zoning clearance. Right about now you may be thinking, well those are the rules. What you may not realize is that my father is almost certain that because of the size of the tree house that he did not need a permit and guess what, he did not. After several conversations with various citizens and a trip to the county courthouse to speak with the building inspector, we, in fact, did not need a building permit. The county building inspector did not have a problem with the tree house project. So once again it fell back into the hands of Orangeville City. I must say that at this point, I was feeling very optimistic and excited to share this information with Mr. Orangeville zoning. I promptly had a meeting set up. I went into the meeting with the highest of hopes that this issue would be easily resolved and that the kids would have their tree house in no time.
I'm sure you've realized by this point that the meeting didn't meet my expectations in the least. Apparently, Orangeville's code states that you must be 12 feet from the house and five feet from the fence line. OK, I get it, those are the rules, but do those rules really apply to a tree house that is built on a tree that wasn't planted according to code. It is unbelievable to me that putting something into a pre-existing tree as inconsequential as a child's tree house is a major concern of Orangeville City. Furthermore, as I drive through town, I am amazed to see several examples of code not being followed not to mention the other numerous things that the city should be concerned with. Especially all of the eyesores on Main Street that need to be cleaned up or condemned.
I don't mean any disrespect, Orangeville has several great qualities. I have many great memories here. However, if the truth be told, a grandpa's tree house for his grandkids can't possibly be a major concern. I mentioned earlier that since I've left Orangeville, I've done a great deal of traveling. It is very disheartening to return to what I've always thought of as a friendly small town and encounter this type of situation. It seems both petty and juvenile to raise issue over a tree house. And even more shocking that we're talking about a code that mandates buildings be a certain distance from a house. There is no building...just a tree house, a play area for the kids like any other number of play areas that you can put anywhere in your yard. This tree has been in the ground longer than I have been alive and obviously wasn't planted according to code. And last but not least, not only were we misled and misinformed about the need for a permit, the rules that apply to a building don't apply here because of the size of the tree house.
So now my family and I will return to our home leaving my father to move the tree house without any help. And I will always wonder how the county rules do not override Orangeville City's.