Monday, November 17, 2008
Snobby Park City, Utah Planning Commission Puts The Kibosh On Kevin Damon's Tree House
The Park City Planning Commission has put the kibosh on a tree house (pictured above, just to the right of the house) erected in the front yard of the Damon family in Park City, Utah. Although KSL Channel 5 just broke the story on November 17th, 2008, the Park Record actually reported on this in greater depth on November 14th.
Here's the situation. Last summer, the Damon family put up a tree house in the front yard of their home at 3028 Oak Rim Lane. The tree house is closer than 20 feet to their property line, which is apparently in violation of Park City zoning ordinances governing structures in front yards. Their home lies in a neighborhood which is controlled by a homeowner's association (HOA).
The media reports are unclear as to whether or not the HOA requires prior approval before erecting such structures. However, Damon said the neighborhood HOA had not previously demanded others receive approval before putting up children's playthings such as swingsets and trampolines. In addition, Damon was able to show photographic evidence that the swingset and trampoline in question were also too close to the respective property lines. [Ed. Note: There's a difference here; swingsets and trampolines are considered portable, tree houses are not portable. This could explain the difference in perspective.]
But apparently some neighbors didn't like being able to see the tree house from the street, so they contacted city hall and lodged a complaint. As a result, the issue ended up before the Planning Commission, which held a public hearing on Wednesday November 12th. Not only did Kevin Damon testify on his own behalf, highlighting the inconsistency and ambiguity of enforcement by both the HOA and the city, but the commission also heard from neighbors, with a representative of the neighborhood's homeowners association claiming the tree house does not meet its rules. Craig Henry, who chairs the architectural committee of the HOA, told the Planning Commission it was "not very neighborly" for Damon to put up the tree house. But another person from the neighborhood, Patti Polster, however, said the tree house is not in a highly visible location. It is "tastefully designed," she said.
Planning Commissioners tiptoed as they prepared to vote against the tree house, saying their decision was based on zoning rules. They were not trying to take away a play area for the kids. "It's a nice-looking tree house," Planning Commissioner Rory Murphy said. Jack Thomas, another commissioner, said the tree house could block views as he called it "problematic" in the location.
But vote against it they did. They ruled that the tree house is a separate structure from the Damon house, and is not allowed under Park City zoning rules.
Kevin Damon says his 11-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son are disappointed. He is now considering the possibility of approaching City Hall's Board of Adjustment, a panel that holds some authority in matters like the tree house's location. Damon had appealed an original staff-level decision against the tree house to the Planning Commission, resulting in the November 12th hearing.
Commentary: Park City is an example of a municipality which takes urban planning and oversight way over the line. They made the conscious decision to become an amusement park for the rich and privileged a long time back. Many homes are in the million-dollar range, thus many of their residents want the town meticulously preserved and regulated. It was out of fear of this problem being replicated in Wasatch County that caused its residents to rise up earlier this year and crush Arizona carpetbagger Dean Sellers' plan to build the planned community of Aspen in their county.
Park City is located in Summit County. The significance of that fact is that of all of Utah's counties, Summit County was one of only two counties to vote for Barack Obama in the November 4th election. And it was not by a narrow margin; Obama out-polled McCain in the county, 9,194 votes to 6,691 votes. Grand County (seated by Moab) also supported Obama, but by a much narrower margin. Obamaholics generally prefer big, buxom, intrusive government which regulates each and every breath of air taken, in contrast to the rest of Utah which prefers considerably more freedom.
And to add insult to injury, the Sundance Film Festival, which takes over Park City every January, wants taxpayers to kick in $1.5 million for their event, not because it needs money, but merely to ensure that the festival continues to "grow". The selfishness of the rich and privileged in this country is a major contributor to the financial problems currently battering America's economy.