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Another treehouse dispute in Fairfax County

Wednesday - 1/4/2012, 6:06pm  ET

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(WTOP/Nathan Hager)
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Nathan Hager, wtop.com

SPRINGFIELD, Va. - Another local Iraq war veteran finds himself in a dispute with a zoning board over a backyard treehouse.

Phillip Blevins, an Air Force officer who recently served in Afghanistan, spent nearly two years of weekends building a tall, triangular structure within four trees that stand just feet away from the property line in his backyard.

The wood-frame house includes a small loft that kids can access using a retractable rope ladder inside.

It features vinyl siding and old doors and windows that had been replaced in the family home.

A wooden deck surrounds the structure, with a bumpy plastic slide in the front for an exit.

The sloping roof even has a gutter system that empties into a 60-gallon tank underneath the deck, making it eco-friendly, according to Blevins.

"It's a fun place for the boys to play. They have a table and games in there," says Blevins.

He started building it in the fall of 2008 and finished in the summer of 2010, just before being deployed to Afghanistan.

But two weeks after Blevins left the country, his wife received a letter from the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning, stating that treehouses must be the same number of feet away from the property line as their height.

Blevins says he contacted the zoning department before he began building and was told he needed no permits.

When his wife received the initial notice of violation, she asked if the county could delay any action until Blevins returned from overseas.

He says they received a verbal agreement to that effect, but last Friday they got a letter from the Fairfax County Sheriff's office stating that their time to appeal the zoning violation had expired.

"We are in touch with legal counsel to see what process we need to follow, because we have 21 days to respond after the notification that occurred on 30 December," says Blevins.

He says none of his neighbors have complained to him personally about the treehouse, but he suspects that a neighbor must have notified the zoning department about the apparent violation.

"I think there needs to be clarification and a process to follow for folks who want to build treehouses," he says.

This comes about a month after a Fairfax County veteran of the Iraq war won an appeal over the treehouse he built for his two sons. Blevins is hoping for a similar outcome in his case.

"I just hope everything pans out and my kids continue to enjoy this treehouse for the few years of youth they have left," Blevins says.

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