A tree house, a dispute and saddened kids
Kevin Damon expected his 11-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son would be unhappy when they woke up Thursday morning.
The night before, in a decision that was not rendered until 10 p.m., the Park City Planning Commission moved against a tree house that Damon put up in his yard for his kids to play in. The tree house, the panel determined, is not allowed under City Hall’s zoning rules.
"She will be disappointed. She really likes that tree house," Damon said after the Planning Commission unanimously agreed with City Hall staffers that the tree house is a separate structure from the Damon house, 3028 Oak Rim Lane.
The tree house is too close to the property line, City Hall argued. Zoning rules do not allow most structures in a front yard within 20 feet of the property line. Planning Commissioners said allowing the tree house to stay would set a precedent and they must enforce the rules.
Damon said afterward he would consider approaching City Hall’s Board of Adjustment, a panel that holds some authority in matters like the tree house’s location. Damon had appealed a staff-level decision against the tree house to the Planning Commission, resulting in the Wednesday meeting.
Wednesday was a rare departure by the Planning Commission from its typical fare — disputes about development in Old Town and high-end projects at the city’s two mountain resorts, among them.
But the discussions about the tree house show how something like that causes a neighborhood stir in Park City, with several neighbors staying late on Wednesday to monitor the Planning Commission. A report submitted to the commissioners beforehand indicated neighbors contacted City Hall complaining about the tree house.
The tree house is about 50 square feet, and it went up last summer. Damon said the homeowners association in the neighborhood had not previously demanded others receive approval before putting up children’s playthings.
"They feel somewhat persecuted," he said about his kids.
Damon showed pictures of a trampoline and a swing at other addresses in Park City that appeared to be too close to a property line. He said it took him just a few minutes to find the other examples.
Planning Commissioners tiptoed as they prepared to vote against the tree house, saying their decision was based on zoning rules. They were not trying to take away a play area for the kids, they said.
"It’s a nice-looking tree house," Planning Commissioner Rory Murphy said.
Jack Thomas, another commissioner, said the tree house could block views as he called it "problematic" in the location.
The Planning Commission heard from neighbors, with a representative of the neighborhood’s homeowners association saying the tree house does not meet its rules.
Craig Henry, who chairs the architectural committee of the homeowners association, told the Planning Commission it was "not very neighborly" for Damon to put up the tree house.
Another person from the neighborhood, Patti Polster, however, said the tree house is not in a highly visible location. It is "tastefully designed," she said.
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Park City officials are preparing to take what is considered to be an important step in protecting the Treasure land from wildfires. City Hall in early June requested proposals from firms interested in the work.