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An Iraq war veteran can claim a victory in a battle over a tree house he built for his sons.
An Iraq war veteran claimed a victory in a battle over a tree house he built for his sons.
When Mark Grapin and his sons erected the tree house in the front yard of their home, it fulfilled a promise but drew the attention of the Fairfax County, Va., Zoning Board.
Before his last deployment, Grapin promised his sons he’d build the tree house when he returned.
"So my whole deployment, I must have made hundreds of sketches,” he said. “What can I do to fulfill my promise to build a tree house? We’ve got two great trees we can put a tree house in."
Grapin learned early in the project he didn’t need a building permit for a tree house and he got to work. Then he got the notice. Someone anonymously brought the tree house to the zoning board’s attention.
“I’m coming less and less to believe it was one of my neighbors,” Grapin said. “I don’t think it was any of my neighbors within a couple of blocks.”
Grapin needed a variance from the zoning board to keep the tree house. After his first petition was denied, word of his dilemma spread and neighbors and strangers alike joined his battle.
A military man from the West Coast who Grapin had never met gathered thousands of petition signatures. A lawyer represented Grapin pro bono before the zoning board. Another neighbor donated some landscaping to help the tree house blend in a little better and Grapin’s sons pitched in, too.
“The boys got 166 signatures, all from the local neighborhood,” Grapin said.
At his appeal, zoning board members who were present unanimously agreed that the tree house could stay.
The Grapins will have to remove the tree house in five years, but that leaves plenty of time for the boys to build childhood memories in it.