Tree House Controversy

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SELINSGROVE -- J. C. Carlson never dreamed a tree house could create such controversy.

Early this month, he started building it on his West Spruce Street property in Selinsgrove as his daughter's 11th birthday present.

"I spent a lot of time in the military, 22 years, and I missed a lot of birthdays and a lot of Christmases and so I thought I would give her her birthday wish," he said.

But a week after he started, Carlson got a letter from borough zoning officials.

"Two pages of code violations, and said that I had 30 days to take it down and that I needed a building permit. It was a shock, you know? When in America did you need something like that to build a tree house for your little girl?"

Samantha Bonawitz-Carlson was upset and so were her friends. In a show of support, hundreds of students in Samantha's school signed a petition and soon, neighbors rallied.

Carlson said complete strangers even started stopping by his home.

"People driving by and stopping their cars, getting out and saying 'That's ridiculous! They should let you build a tree house!' getting out and shaking my hands, you know? Just all supportive, nothing negative," he said.

Carlson said he will fight to keep the tree house. The next stage of that fight is at a zoning board hearing on June 6.

"I got an attorney that's going to represent me on the 6th of June at the zoning board and, God willing, we will get the tree house built."

Carlson's neighbors said they just received letters from the borough requesting they attend the June 6 zoning hearing and testify about the tree house.

A call to borough officials was not returned Wednesday.