Published in the Vancouver Sun last year and still interesting as it could happen in Ontario as well. Innovative creators take note!
City fires one across bow of shipshape tree fort
Glenn Bohn, Vancouver Sun
Published: Thursday, October 05, 2006
Architect Andrew Dewberry built a tree fort for his two young sons in a big cedar tree in the front yard of his Kerrisdale home.
Now the city wants him to take it down.
According to a letter a city inspector sent Dewberry and his wife Jayne Seagrave at the end of September, the boat-shaped structure is an “accessory building” that violates the zoning and development bylaw.
Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun
The one-level wooden structure is about three metres by two metres in size and shaped to look like a cannon-armed ship. One end is curved like a prow and there is a wooden platform that resembles a crow’s nest high up in a mast. Plastic pipe-lined holes along each side of the fort are pretend “cannon ports.” Sons Sam and Jack can push chestnut “cannonballs” through the ports to ward off enemies. There are a few practical features too, like a cone-shaped roof of wood and tarpaper for the rain.
To six-year-old Sam and seven-year-old Jack, the tree fort is a pirate ship on the high seas.
“I like to play in it and stuff,” Sam said. “Some day, I’d like to sleep in it.”
Boaters can find freedom on the high seas, but local governments have rules about what can be built on city-sized lots.
Dewberry says he talked to a city official by phone on Aug. 31 to ask about tree forts, before he bought $2,000 worth of wood and other building supplies. According to Dewberry, he was told there were no guidelines for tree forts and no mention of them in a bylaw.
“He told me the department was ‘complaint driven,’ ” Dewberry said, “so I asked him the obvious question: ‘If there was a complaint, what would you do?’ ” Dewberry said the official replied: “Nothing.”
But something did happen. Although the fort isn’t very visible from the street or Dewberry’s front yard, it is more visible from a neighbour’s front yard and one side of the fort is close to the property line.
The city’s Sept. 29 letter notes the tree fort is on the south side of the front yard, and that it was build without a permit. The letter asks the parents of Sam and Jack to come to city hall, submit building plans for the tree fort, sign a development application and pay a fee. That paper work is to be done within 30 days or the parents have to “remove” the tree fort to avoid “further action” that is not spelled out.
McLellan said the city allows people to build tree forts in back yards — as opposed to front yards — because small tree forts in back yards usually don’t affect a neighbour’s privacy.
“Avoid an impact on your neighbour,” he advised. “Some people complain because [a neighbour’s tree fort] compromises their privacy. There are often ways to screen it, to deal with those issues.
“The only reason we’re out there is that we’re acting on a complaint,” he said. “Most people try to work things out with their neighbours, without involving city hall.”
HOW TO BUILD SO INSPECTORS WON’T COME
You don’t need a building permit to erect a tree fort in Vancouver, however, here are some things to keep in mind:
– Build it in the back yard, not the front yard.
– Don’t put up a structure that’s more than 100 square feet in size.
– Keep it away from property lines and legal setbacks.
– Talk to your neighbours before building, to ensure the tree fort doesn’t look down on their back yards and affect a neighbour’s privacy.
Source: David McLellan, City of Vancouver
© The Vancouver Sun 2006