Schaumburg man challenging village's rules on treehouses

  • Christopher Mooney of Schaumburg displays the current state of his backyard treehouse, which village officials say is in violation of new regulations. Though never completed, the treehouse had its walls and roof installed before Mooney took them down after receiving a notice from the village in March.

      Christopher Mooney of Schaumburg displays the current state of his backyard treehouse, which village officials say is in violation of new regulations. Though never completed, the treehouse had its walls and roof installed before Mooney took them down after receiving a notice from the village in March. Eric Peterson | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/29/2016 9:48 AM

A Schaumburg man who began building a 150-square-foot treehouse before new village regulations prohibited that large of a structure is challenging officials' demands he tear it down, saying it should be grandfathered in under the previous rules.

Adding to his obstacles is the treehouse's location in a dead ash tree -- just as Schaumburg officials are stepping up efforts to require such trees' removal.

 

Christopher Mooney said an arborist advised him that the dead tree behind his home on of Fairlane Drive can be treated just like lumber to keep it from deteriorating.

"Left untreated, the tree will decay," Mooney conceded. "But that's the key word -- 'left untreated.' This tree is going to be treated."

Though both the size of the treehouse and the health of the tree it's built in are two strikes against him as far as village inspectors go, Mooney plans to argue his case to the Planning, Building & Development Committee made up of three elected village trustees.

Trustee Jack Sullivan, who chairs the committee, voiced skepticism Thursday about Mooney's pitch.

"It's not even a question of the treehouse, it's that the tree is dead," Sullivan said. "If someone's willing to build a treehouse for their kid, I'm willing to listen. If that tree were alive, maybe we could talk about it. I'm sorry, that's a question of public health. The tree is dead and needs to be removed."

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When the village board agreed last month to step efforts to get dead ash trees removed, Village Attorney Lance Malina said they are a public safety concern because they fall apart more quickly than dead trees of other species.

Schaumburg officials approved new treehouse regulations in June 2015, largely to prevent a repeat of the elaborate 112-square-foot structure resident Dan Alexander rents out on airbnb.com.

The new regulations confine treehouses to backyards, limit them to less than 100 square feet in area, and require they be built at least 10 feet from a property line.

Mooney's work-in-progress is 50 percent bigger than what's allowed, while its edge comes within a foot or two of the property next door.

He says the deck of the treehouse already was installed by the time the new regulations were passed, and the walls prefabricated and ready to be put up. Mooney said he knew nothing of the regulations until he received a notice in March that his treehouse was in violation and had to be removed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In recent days he's received a $100 fine for the treehouse and a notice to remove the tree within the next few months or face a similar fine.

He's scheduled to appear at the village's administrative adjudication hearing next Wednesday to appeal the fine, but said he intends to seek a continuance while he brings the question of grandfathering to a higher authority.

Mooney said that, unlike Alexander's treehouse, his will be only a play area for his now 8- and 10-year-old kids.

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