<< The Body Politic

Bureaucrats, Boy Scouts, veterans–and a tree house

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

In last week’s edition, the Washington Post carried this humorous account of a National Guard veteran running afoul of Fairfax County zoning laws when he built a treehouse for his two sons in his backyard.

After building the treehouse, Mark Grapin was informed that he was in violation of the county zoning code. “It’s a treehouse, for crying out loud,” Grapin said, explaining that “he only wanted to give his sons the kind of hideaway he knew as [a] kid growing up in Redondo Beach, Calif., when he and [his] friends built a treehouse using bent nails, apple crates and whatever else they could scavenge.”

Since receiving the violation notice, Grapin has been appealing the charge, hoping for an exception for his sons’ treehouse. He hasn’t lost his good cheer by doing so, however, and used the opportunity to teach his sons civics lessons:

In the back and forth with county inspectors, he invited them more than once to drop by an ‘Open Treehouse’ event his sons held to gather neighborhood support, and he joked that he would soon be friendly with the post office because of all the notices he had to send to meet legal requirements.

When he visited Board of Supervisors member Penelope A. Gross (D-Mason) to enlist her support, his sons — Eric, 11, and Sean, 9 — went along on a visit to earn merit badge credits for scouting. To enlist neighborhood support, the boys also set up a free lemonade stand and gathered more than 155 signatures on a petition.

It’s of course fortunate that the lemonade stand was a free one–for otherwise, the boys could stand to be in violation of another county ordinance.