A zoning board in Fairfax County, Virginia is standing firm in its decision to order a war veteran to destroy a tree house he built for his two young sons.
County officials determined Army Aviation Specialist Mark Grapin violated zoning regulations when he built a tree house in his backyard.
âThe boys wanted a tree house,â Grapin told Fox News Radio, explaining it was a promise he made to his 8-year-old and 10-year-old sons before he left for Iraq.
âIt was a commitment I made to the boys and frankly, we should do our best to keep our commitments to our children,â he said.
So when Grapin returned home, he followed through on that promise and headed off to the local home improvement store. He said he contacted Fairfax County and was given assurances that he didnât need any special permits to build the $1,400 tree house.
But it turns out â that wasnât exactly accurate.
âI was up on the roof of the thing when I found out the county board of zoning enforcement had left a notice on the front door,â he said.
It turns out Grapin didnât need a permit â he needed a zoning variance. Thatâs because his house is on a corner lot. And in the eyes of Fairfax County â Grapin has two front yards.â
Because of the location on his lot, he does have to follow the zoning code,â said Merni Fitzgerald, a spokeswoman for the county told the Washington Post. âItâs no different from a shed or a garage or any structure.â
Grapin acknowledges that he made a mistake.
âWe just didnât connect the dots to all the offices that needed to be contacted to build a tree house,â he said.
But he still made a promise to his sons â so Grapin decided to appeal the ruling. He said the board of zoning appeals denied his request for a variance â but offered him one last chance to plead his case â on Nov. 30th.
In the meantime, Grapin has had to pay nearly $1,800 in permits and fees to build a $1,400 tree house.
âI paid $885 for a special permit to build the tree house,â he said. âThere were additional fees of $975 to have the plats for the property redrawn to reflect the tree house and then I had to pay mail fees to notify the neighbors of hearings so they could voice any concerns they might have about the tree house.â
All that trouble â for a childâs tree house.
âIt might have been cheaper to take the boys to Disneyland,â he told Fox News Radio.
Grapin said heâs pretty bothered by the âqueen-sized pantyhose, one-size-fits-all code.â
His final opportunity to plead his case will be Nov. 30th. Grapin will have to satisfy nine requirements to save his sonsâ tree house. He must prove that the tree house âwill be in harmony with the intended spirit and purposes of this Ordinance and will not be contrary to the public interest.â
Grapin said heâs come to terms with the fact â that the tree house may have to come down because of the costs of fighting the county.
âAt some point, Iâm going to have to say, âIâm sorry, boys. We fought the good fight.ââ