main banner

Monday, October 12, 2020

Annandale family fights to keep treehouse

Neighborhood kids enjoy the Dapoigny treehouse. 
A family on Holborn Avenue in Annandale with a treehouse in their front yard is fighting efforts by Fairfax County officials who say the structure needs to be removed because it violates zoning rules, the Wakefield Weekly reports. 

According to the Dapoigny family, the county sent them a letter saying they need to pay a $913 fee and get special approval to keep the treehouse – or they will have to tear it down in 30 days.

Failure to comply “could result in court-ordered sanctions or civil penalties – $200 for the first citation and $500 for subsequent citations,” the Wakefield Weekly states. 

Erwan Dapoigny built the treehouse in May for his daughter Ana’s ninth birthday. 

“Kids used it for playdates and hangouts,” Sandra Lukic-Dapoigny writes on a Change.org petition. “All used it as a safe haven from COVID lockdown. The kids’ summer holiday was gone but the treehouse helped them still build happy 2020 memories.”

The petition asks community members for support, not donations. It urges people to “please sign this petition to build a strong case in front of the county and help Ana save her birthday treehouse!”

If enough people sign the petition, the family hopes that will encourage the county to grant an exception. 

27 comments:

  1. I went through this in 1998 with my homeowners association. My daughter watched us tear it down on her tenth birthday. Even after appearing on Good Morning America and every TV news show in the greater DC area. HOAs are good for some things but too many lawyers get involved and they'd rather crush childhood dreams than compromise.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The guy should just say its his home classroom for FCPS virtual learning.

      Delete
    2. Thank you, we never though of that, thank you for made us laugh.

      Delete
  2. Welcome to the Soviet Socialist Union of Fairfax County, VA.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Obviously, it violated some kind of county zoning rule. Maybe you should have looked up those rules before building it??? That way your daughter wouldn't now be disappointed. I had a neighbor who cut down trees in their back yard, then they were fined $10,000 for doing so and had to replant the trees they cut down (because, I think they were in the RPA zone.) Lesson learned: LOOK UP THOSE REGULATIONS BEFORE YOU ACT

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Are the regulations absurd or unreasonable is the question.

      Delete
    2. Thank you for offering advice, but the analogy is a bit flawed. We have not destroyed any plants, tree or impose on our community. The structure is eco-friendly, and as such temporary. The zoning it self is vague of what is front of the house. Our neighbors have a big wonderful tree house and although it can clearly seen it has been there for many years since it is a corner house. No zone citations. We are aware of several other tree houses that are upfront allowed by the county. Even county itself suggestion we look for how we can save it.

      Delete
  4. Nope- there are communities in Fairfax county where you don’t have HOAs. You chose to live there so you must abide by the rules. Sad for your daughter but what kind of civic lesson are you teaching her?

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is puzzling. I just went to the Fairfax County site to see what the building permit fee would be for a comparable structure. The fee for a 100 square foot deck is only $108.00. Why is the county asking for $913.00?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I feel so sorry for the little girl but it has been against the FFX zoning regulations for a long time. The lesson to learn here is to check the county zoning rules before building anything on your property. I hope for her sake they are able to get special permission from the county.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Board of Zoning appeals approves things that are built in error all the time. I have neighbors who have built sheds, garages, fences, and other structures in error and have gotten them approved by zoning retroactively. I went to a hearing where a man built a giant addition to his home 5 feet from his property line (in violation of setback requirements) and they approved it retroactively. I don't see how this is any different, and am not sure why they are not stating their case in front of the BZA.

      Delete
  7. The county may have the legal authority to go after this family, but they do not have to and they shouldn't. Fairfax County bureaucrats feel they must control everything. They will use every bit of legal authority they have or can grab without restraint.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fairfax county has been very professional and even offer us some advice what to do. They just reacted on somebody (and certainly they were not close neighbors)) reporting on it.

      Delete
  8. And this, folks, is why people are cynical about government. FFC decides to enforce code compliance on a treehouse? This is where the County decides to make its stand? You’ve got to be kidding me. The same County that looks the other way as QOL declines, esp. in SFH neighborhoods, due to a relentless push for increased density. Home-based businesses creating traffic and safety issues, cars parked on front lawns, commercial vehicles cluttering residential neighborhoods, boarding houses operating with impunity, a government that tends to ratify zoning violations that involve entire houses/buildings. But, by golly, this treehouse is a bridge too far.

    I would have less sympathy for the family if the County enforced zoning and other regulations that actually affect QOL. I suppose it's much easier to go after a treehouse scofflaw than landlords, developers, and others who violate the rules (and may have a lawyer).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. County officials know whos money to take to be re-elected. We need to clean house and maybe the replacements will enforce the bigger problems.

      Delete
  9. It’s heartbreaking to read the comments of those who point to the zoning regulations as reason to tear down a child’s treehouse. Yes, according to the regulations, you win, congratulations. Within a few years however, the treehouse will be unoccupied as the tenants head off the high school, college, and the adult world teeming with opportunities for life-lessons. Who really ‘loses’ when a few kids have a safe, screen-free place to enjoy the fleeting days of the wonderful world of childhood? I think the latter far outweighs a ‘civics lesson’, and reminds us all of how we can lose sight of what’s really important in life.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I am with the prior poster - Fairfax has turned a blind eye to a multitude of zoning ordinances and fails to enforce them regularly. The number of group homes, multiuse homes, businesses out of the home, cars with MD plates that most assuredly rent in Virginia but don't want to pay taxes, accessory dwellings, allowing atrocities to be built against code and then allowing it after the fact --- BUT THIS IS WHERE YOU ENFORCE???? Holy crap. WTH.

    Yes, the owner should have looked up the rules and we did the same when we built ours - they are there. But it would be nice if Fairfax enforced the real stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Would have been useful to say in the article what rules were violated.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Beautiful work by Fairfax authorities.
    Great to see my tax money spent well.


    Cant wait for these jokers next stupid adventure instead of dealing with the real issues of this declining county.

    ReplyDelete
  13. What is missing from this article is the fact that the county would have only come after the owners if a complaint was filed. As many of you are well aware, the county does not simply patrol the streets looking for code violations - they rely on complaints from the public.

    Once a complaint is filed, if the complaint is legitimate (i.e. the homeowner in question has done something against code), then the county has an obligation to pursue that complaint.

    As others have noted, the appeals approves structures that were built erroneously all the time, and the fee/fine may be lowered in the end. Through the process though, the homeowner is going to have to show that the structure is safe and meets building code. This is a process we should welcome for everyone involved’s sake. I hope that they are successful with minimum, if any changes and a reduced fee so their kids can continue to enjoy their outdoor space.

    ReplyDelete
  14. While technically they are violating rules and are not in the right to have built this, this situation doesn’t feel good.

    I believe that’s because there are so many horrific code violations with a much greater impact to actual resident safety, a huge level of “blight”, etc — the vast majority of which go unchecked. Yes, even when complaints are filed.

    So we enforce tree houses, but not overcrowded SFH homes with 10 cars parked outside, dilapidated homes, rusted out cars in disrepair, etc.

    Feels bad, man!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Really makes you wonder! Why does the county not enforce the myriad of other local laws and regulations - people switching their homes into temples, developers wantonly abusing zoning permits and regulations, hordes of delinquents roaming the streets, way too many people crammed into illegal and unsafe housing conditions - yet a treehouse makes the news?

    These kids need time outdoors, off of their computer screens making memories with their friends and family - and this event will indelibly leave them uninterested in civics or the rule of authority.

    True leadership - from the community up to the county management - seems as vacant from Mason District as all of the abandoned retail space on our main thoroughfares. It will be interesting to watch how much further this district will lag the rest of FFX County going into the next decade.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Such an on-point comment.

      Complete absence of leadership for the Mason district.

      Delete
    2. The treehouse is in the Braddock District, not Mason.

      Delete
    3. Just wait until they jam through ZMOD, if you think a tree house is bad just you wait...

      Delete