Nanny State

How to Save a Treehouse from a Zoning Board


It was supposed to be a "slice of Americana and of childhood dreams," says U.S. Army Specialist Mark Grapin, who lives in Fairfax County, Virginia. He's talking about the treehouse he built for his two sons after returning from his latest tour of duty in Iraq.

What Grapin didn't expect was that Fairfax County's zoning board would demand he tear down the treehouse after an anonymous complaint, thus launching the family into an eight-month legal battle.

Grapin went to the local media for help and public outcry turned into an online petition. A neighbor donated trees to cover the treehouse, and the family even received a pro bono lawyer to help win over board members.

Just days before the treehouse was to be torn down, Grapin was able to convince the board to let him keep it on the condition it be removed after five years. Plenty of time, he says, for his sons to enjoy it. 

About 2 minutes. ?Produced by Joshua Swain.

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95 responses to “How to Save a Treehouse from a Zoning Board

  1. There is no such thing as private property.

    1. Amen, brother. You just rent it from the government.

        1. The instant you have property taxes, there is no longer private property, because even if you “own” the property, if you don’t pay your rent property tax, the government takes the property back away.

          1. Why are you depressing me at Xmas time!?!

            1. Sorry. Here’s a song for you.

              He knows when you are sleeping
              He knows when you’re on the can
              If he sees you he’ll blast your ass from here to Pakistan!
              Oh, you better not breathe
              You better not move
              You’re better off dead, I’m telling you dude
              Santa Claus is gunning you down!

              1. Your mistletoe is no match for my TOW missile!

                1. Ho ho ho! It’s time to get jolly on your naughty asses!

                  1. Am I going to get malware from that cameltoe thing?

                  2. I was wondering if it was SFW!

                  3. I’m gonna guess that’s NSFW.

              2. There’s still Robanukah, I guess!

          2. and if I want to put a pig farm on my city lot, the GOVERNMENT won’t let me!

            1. Happy Thursday!

            2. Why do you hate pig farmers?

            3. Your shipload of libertarian pig stink has arrived.

      1. So why are so many people opposed to SLV tax? Just formalizes the status quo.

  2. sorry but a treehouse is supposed to up in the branches not supported fm the ground. let the RPG practice commence…

    1. Eat shit and fuck off, servile swine.

      1. dotn bother me. im listening to louis armstrong christmas carols just now…treehouse retard.

    2. It IS in the fucking tree dipshit.

  3. OT:…

    ON-TOPIC: Does the KKK have a shop? Because I’d really love to buy a bunch of huge crosses and crucify the zoning board.

    1. Yeah, I don’t think would be very hard to make.

      1. RPA must be the worst carpenter in the world.

        1. Labor Specialization can be a bitch.

    2. very appropos res considering the KKK probs ur boy ron paul is experiencing.

      1. ^What language is this?

  4. OT: Bloggers not journalist. Are there journalist? I can’t think of any. The play-by-play sports announcer is probably the closest thing I can think of.…..urnalists/

  5. “In the last generation, we don’t remember an entire neighborhood getting together like this, all at once…”

    Well, an entire neighborhood minus the one neighbor who didn’t like the treehouse and called in the anonymous tip. Anyway, generations past you didn’t have the type of local governments you needed to get together to fight.

    1. I’m sure the Quisling neighbor joined right in not wanted to be ostracized or worse.

  6. I wonder what particular bylaw he violated of the zoning board.


    1. Fairfax prohibits structures on front yards except flagpoles and basketball hoops. Grapin owns a corner property and doesn’t own a back yard to put a treehouse in.

      1. Yep, had to look that up.

        Apparently he cannot operate a barbershop/hair styling operation out of his house either.

        1. I guess a barbershop quartet would fine though?

          1. Between certain hours.

            1. And only if he lets that one dude from the city council in the group even though he can’t really sing.

              1. He’s the one with those straw, pork pie hats.

                  1. It’s actually a boater or skimmer. A pork pie is a different animal.

                    1. It’s actually a boater or skimmer. A pork pie is a different animal.

                      HAT THREAD!

                    2. I’m a fez man, myself.

                    3. Fezzes are cool. Bowties, eh…

                    4. I used to be a fez man, but the tassel kept brushing the monocle from my eye. That is why the top hat is the preferred chapeau for libertarians.

                    5. I ain’t never gonna do it without the fez on. On no.

        2. Local governments with, um, certain demographics are very strict about prohibiting “illegal” barbershops. (Quite common in a state like VA)

          If we let people get a haircut anyplace they want to, we’ll be Somalia.

            1. I’m serious; flip through some local code sometime and you will encounter page upon page basically criminalising opening a barber shop or nail salon.

              One of my favourite ordinances was against “loitering” at barbershops. The state really hates anyone having a good time.

          1. If they weren’t prohibited, they wouldn’t be illegal.

          2. “If we let people get a haircut anyplace they want to, we’ll be Somalia.”

            Holy sh!t I enjoyed that line.

  7. Goddamn kids an’ their goddamn treehouses

  8. I’ve been on this board long enough know I’m not supopsed to be suprised at this, but I am. Srsly, what stick up the ass neighbor narc’ed on a kids treehouse. And the local government has a rule against this. Really, Really, Really.

  9. Pyrrhic victory as they are “letting” him keep it for 5 years.

  10. It’s fucking Fairfax, for god’s sake. Democrat central in Virginia. Busybodies as far as the eye can see.

    1. How can people live there? I mean, if you’re not one of these government busybodies? Say you are a libertarian editor, how could you ever survive in the DC area?

      1. answer: depends on the local booze laws?

  11. At an unusual gala ceremony on the release of a major new Environmental Protection Agency rule yesterday, chief Lisa Jackson called it “historic” and “a great victory.” And she’s right: The rule may be the most expensive the agency has ever issued, and it represents the triumph of the Obama Administration’s green agenda over economic growth and job creation. Congratulations.

    The so-called utility rule requires power plants to install “maximum achievable control technology” to reduce mercury emissions and other trace gases. But the true goal of the rule’s 1,117 pages is to harm coal-fired power plants and force large parts of the fleet?the U.S. power system workhorse?to shut down in the name of climate change. The EPA figures the rule will cost $9.6 billion, which is a gross, deliberate underestimate.

    In return Ms. Jackson says the public will get billions of dollars of health benefits like less asthma if not a cure for cancer. Those credulous enough to believe her should understand that the total benefits of mercury reduction amount to all of $6 million. That’s total present value, not benefits per year?oh, and that’s an -illion with an “m,” which is not normally how things work out in President Obama’s Washington.

    The rest of the purported benefits?to be precise, 99.99%?come by double-counting pollution reductions like soot that the EPA regulates through separate programs and therefore most will happen anyway. Using such “co-benefits” is an abuse of the cost-benefit process and shows that Cass Sunstein’s team at the White House regulatory office?many of whom opposed the rule?got steamrolled.…..oveLEFTTop

    1. climate change doesnt have anything to do w heavy metals discharged into the air & water. it tries moar harder…

    2. Spewing mercury into the atmosphere is rather well documented as raising mercury levels in the oceans and increasing blood mercury levels of people who live near power plants. This is one of the few regulations I’d agree with.

      But the origin of why U.S. power plants are so bad is due to bizarre regulations that required anything beyond the most basic maintenance to require replacing obsolete scrubbing equipment with the latest-and-greatest technology. Power plants were subject to punishment if they replaced ancient, filthy smokestacks with improved technology unless it was the very latest and greatest.

      And it’s all a moot point anyway unless China signs a treaty with us to reduce their own mercury emissions; we all share the same oceans.

      (Disclaimer: lived in the shadow of the power plants in Brilliant, OH for a while. Grandma gets her pension check from the UMWA.)

      1. No such thing as a old Coal Miner. Hope my wife enjoys the UMWA check.

    3. Remember, I practice enviro law, and this rule is HUGE to several of our clients.

      I have yet to read the entire, MASSIVE regulation (I believe it’s something around 1,000 pages), but my understanding from discussing it with some others in my office is that it appears that it effectively will be impossible for a coal-fired power plant to meet the new rule. It’s a pretty transparent attempt to shut down coal-fired plants.

      The rule WILL be challenged. It will take a few years, but look for this regulation to appear in the U.S. Supreme Court at some point in the future.

    4. mercury from burning coal is bad, but don’t let that discourage you from switching to entirely mercury based lighting devices.

  12. How about a treehouse medallion system? That way, you wouldn’t have the problem of getting into some random stranger’s treehouse.

  13. Let him have a treehouse, and the next thing you know, he’ll have a broken down eighteen wheeler parked in his front yard.

    Eternal vigilance is the price of conformity!

    1. Or worse yet, a fully functional eighteen wheeler that he can use to promote capitalism and destruction of the environment.

  14. The instant you have property taxes, there is no longer private property,

    Paging robc…

  15. I’m with the zoning board on this one. A treehouse is supposed to be in a tree; not on or around a tree. It’s required to be assembled in half-assed manner, with no adult supervision, at least 15-feet off the ground, unsafe, with an uneven floor (preferably with gaping holes), no walls, and either a plastic tarp (suffocation hazard) or aluminum siding (decapitation hazard) for a roof. Access to the treehouse shall be a fraying, dried-out rope or a “ladder” made out of 8-inch pieces of cut up hockey sticks, held to the tree with one (and one only) rusty nail. I don’t see any of that here. This is much too safe to teach the kids any lessons.

    1. You forgot the “No Girlz Aloud” sign.

  16. Treehouse?? WTF? Thing looks like an addition complete with dormer. You can bitch all you wish about the zoning thingey, but I’m damned glad I live on a section of land and don’t have to worry about looking at that shit.

    1. Why do some people worry so much about other people’s yards? Can’t they be content with the upkeep of their own?

      1. Good question – I don’t get it either.

      2. I have to admit I’m torn on this one.

        This largely is an undesirable side effect of living on small lots, check-by-jowl in suburbia. Which is something I very much looking forward to getting the hell out of but will have to deal with for at least about the next four years.

        For the most part, I take the libertarian line that says let my neighbor do whatever the hell they want to do with their property as long as it doesn’t affect mine. And from a tort law standpoint (the traditional law of private nuisance), this generally is the rule: you are entitled the use and enjoyment of your property unless and until your use and enjoyment of your property begins to interfere with another’s use and enjoyment of his property.

        A primary reason for the development of zoning laws was to prevent the need to continually go to court to get injunctions against private nuisances all the time. The idea being that you establish zones in which the allowed uses presumably won’t interfere with anyone else’e peaceful use and enjoyment of their properties.

        It’s a bit of a line-drawing exercise, I’m afraid. For some people, the line is drawn at a very different place than for others.

        On the one hand, I’m betting that a lot of people here would have something to say if a person moved into the house on the 1/3 acre lot next door and set up a fat rendering plant and had hog trucks coming and going all hours of the day and night, or started piling junk cars on every square inch of the lot three deep, with wreckers and scrap metal trucks coming and going.

        At the other end of the spectrum, there are those who get miffed if the neighbor paints his house a color the other person doesn’t find attractive.

        At a certain point, however, there arguably is some degree of interference with the other person’s use and enjoyment of his property. It’s a question of where that point legitimately is, or should be.

        Of course, the usual argument is “preserving property value,” which is hard, if not impossible, to quantify. But I don’t doubt that if you’re trying to sell your house, and your neighbor has some big pile of ugly shit in his front yard, your potential home buyers will say, “well, your house is lovely, but what the hell is that thing in your neighbor’s yard?” And most people are nowhere near as libertarian as many here, so they likely would be less forgiving of their potential neighbor having that big ol’ ugly pile of shit in the front yard, and cross your house off their list. So, is their activity on their property interfering with your property, by reducing its market value? I think there is an argument to be made. Of course, you’ll say this is an issue only if you’re trying to sell your house at that time. If you’re not trying to sell your house, it doesn’t matter. (Although maybe you could use it to argue for reduced property taxes, which typically are based on current fair market value).

        For the time being, I live in suburban hell and so I deal with this kind of crap all the time. And everyone here knows that we have not only zoning limitations but also, in my neighborhood (and just about every other one in the area), restrictive covenants. So if you don’t want to be limited by those rules, don’t move there. But on the other hand, some of them arguably are unnecessarily and seemingly arbitrarily restrictive.

        Which is all to say that I’m a bit torn here.

        1. to prevent the need to continually go to court to get injunctions against private nuisances all the time.

          great, put the burden of court/board arguing on the defendant of the claim instead of the person bringing the claim. How could that possibly go wrong?

    2. I’ll submit that you don’t know what a dormer is.

    3. IF you did, then just buy it from him.

    4. It’s the flag that pisses me off.

      1. Agreed.
        What is it with you people and your fkn flag, anyway?
        Is it a fetish or an actual chromosome deficiency?
        We get it. You’re fkn American. Leave it alone, already.

  17. If the zoning reg was in place when he bought the property, then he went in “eyes open” and should have known he couldn’t build this. If it was put in place after he bought the property, then the action of the zoning board is a “public taking” and he is owed compensation for no longer being able to use his property in this manner.
    Governing bodies would be very hesitant to zone activities out if the
    taxpayers had to cough up after every taking.

    1. Well, by that argument, he didn’t buy the property; it’s more like he chose to lease it from the government and paid the prior owner a fee for them to relinquish their lease.

      The biggest problem with this line of reasoning is that a mob can basically vote any zoning reg it wants and force you to comply with it. Your lease has a clause in it “37) LANDLORD may change or add to any of these terms at any time. TENANT may override such a change by securing the majority vote of a group of citizens within boundaries which may also change at any time.”

      1. Well, by that argument, he didn’t buy the property; it’s more like he chose to lease it from the government and paid the prior owner a fee for them to relinquish their lease.

        Technically, it is true. But I would LOOOOOOOOOVE for them to go to court with that argument to win a case. You want to see mob violence? Tell the majority of home owners that they don’t REALLY own their homes.

    2. Governing bodies would be very hesitant to zone activities out if the
      taxpayers had to cough up after every taking.

      Why would the governing body care, it’s not their money going down the drain.

  18. 02 is in fact tecnically correct above – a treehouse not in a tree is just a playhouse.

    Which is besides the point, and just semantics; if the guy had actually put the thing up in a tree rather than in his yard, I’m sure the EPA would have him charged as well… maybe reckless endangerment too… i mean, jesus, up in a tree? What, are you encouraging kids to break their necks?! Also, that tree belongs to *everyone*…

    I swear, I am at least proud to have been part of the last generation that let kids be kids, more or less. Now I hear kids can’t ski without helmets in some states…

    fucking. pussies.

  19. Fragile skinny with milky white skin and tons of attitude, Olena is the kind of girl who always gets noticed. A truly cosmopolitan girl, this young firecracker is well traveled, funny, stylish and if we are honest, a little bit crazy!

    Tomboy Olena loves her US truck caps and converse shoes but also has an appreciation for ultra sexy lingerie! In line with her anarchic attitude she loves punk music and lots of sex. And throughout the shoot she chomped on protein rich crabsticks to help maintain that lean and mean body of hers!

    Oozing sex appeal and a little bit wild, Olena is the kind of girl your mother warned you about ? you have been warned!

    1. I appreciate that she is nude. But she barely looks like a woman. More closely resembles a 13 year old boy. may want to spam Penn State football sites instead.

  20. They do not have that other people at home, saying only that his grandson, and we smell like small talk, like his grandson is doing what? Grandfather said his grandson was a football player.

  21. Looking at his uniform, it appears that Mr. Grapin is a Chief Warrant Officer 5 rather than a Specialist. You should probably correct the article and video since you inadvertently demoted Chief Grapin by ten pay grades.

  22. Do you want to find cheap corsets online? If you do you won’t be the only one. Everyone is trying to cut back on what they spend these days, but most of us are reluctant to stop spending money altogether, especially when it is on something that makes us feel so good.

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