Not in YOUR Backyard - NBC4 Washington

Not in YOUR Backyard

AA County cracks down on ‘illegal’ tree house



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    What started as one man’s way to work through the grief of his mother’s death became a towering treasure, a handmade wooden pirate ship perched high in a tree above the Federroll family backyard and overlooking the Magothy River in Pasadena, Md.

    Unfortunately, it's illegal.

    Craig Federroll spent months constructing the tree house, the Capital newspaper reported. The project was a creative way of channeling his emotions. His mother, Susan Federroll, a longtime social worker and psychotherapist in Anne Arundel County, died suddenly of a heart attack during the spring of 2009 at the age of 69.

    “I was rocked,” Federroll told the Capital.

    His two children, Jake, 7, and Abby, 11, love their tree house, which quickly became a focal point for friends and parties.

    "It was really for the kids," Federroll told the Capital.

    The tree house is not visible from the street, but it can be plainly seen from the river, which is how Federroll’s trouble began. A county inspector spotted the tree house while reviewing plans for a nearby pier.

    A year and a half after building the structure, Federroll’s been told he needs a permit.

    It never crossed his mind to apply for a permit, he said. "Would you think you need a permit for a tree house?"

    But he did. Critical Area laws restrict building along the shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal waters, with the strictest regulations within 100 feet of the water.

    Though county inspectors said they're concerned about safety, Federroll is confident the tree house is secure. It outlasted last winter's blizzards, which crushed plenty of sheds and garages.

    The Federrolls ask all parents to climb inside the tree house to make sure they're comfortable letting their children up there. So far, no one has refused.

    The county has not asked the Federrolls to tear the tree house down, but to get proper permits for a rear deck.