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Local Girl's Tree House is in Trouble

July 17, 2018 09:19 PM

(ABC 6 News)-- A little girl in Rochester may soon lose her tree-top retreat.

Lily Shanahan’s incredible tree house includes three levels, a bed, and a rug. It even has electricity for lights and a fan.

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Lily’s father, Chris Shanahan, built it for her about three years ago.

“I am definitely for doing everything proper as a licensed contractor,” said Chris.

So he says he called building and safety beforehand. “They said it wasn't regulated and they don't do tree houses,” said Chris. “I called building and zoning and I didn't really get a straight answer … they just said it shouldn't be an issue.”

However, years later it’s become an issue.

“The City is left in a very difficult position because we received a complaint about structure - a tree house - that was built in a yard that clearly violates a number of the provisions of the City codes,” said Michael Wojcik, a Councilman with the City of Rochester. 

The tree house is labeled an "accessory structure" and is over the 15 feet maximum height requirement. It’s also too close to the side and rear property lines.

“I feel like it’s pretty harmless,” said Chris. “I have full support of the neighbors around me.”

“Nobody on the City Council wants to take a tree house away from a kid,” said Wojcik. “The tricky thing with government is as soon as we don't enforce something, we lose our ability to enforce it in the future.”

Wojcik says there are three options. “First of all, we can commit tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars to write a portion of our code that would allow this,” he said. “And we don't have the time or the resources to do that.”

The Shanahan family can also apply for a variance, which will cost $720. Appealing costs an extra $360.

The third option is to take the tree house down.

“I would be very sad if someday it would have to be taken it down,” said Lily.

Locals are taking up the cause. More than 100 people have signed a petition. Tuesday morning, a Rochester business made a $1,500 donation to the Shanahan family.

“Tap House was so nice to put forth the money or the expense to cover it [the cost of the variance],” said Chris.

Chris says he will apply for the variance before the August 20 deadline. “I’m hopeful. I think we will have a good end result,” he said.

Credits

Hannah Tiede

Copyright 2018 - KAAL-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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