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Montana boys win Billings city approval: Treehouse can stay

December 06, 2012|By Kim Murphy
  • A letter from Logan Olson, asking the City Council to let a treehouse he and his brother helped build to stay where it is.
A letter from Logan Olson, asking the City Council to let a treehouse he and… (Olson family )

Anyone left wondering about the fate of the now-famous treehouse in Billings, Mont.— the grand structure built by two boys and their grandfather in violation of the city’s building code — need wonder no more. The treehouse has won a reprieve.

In a unanimous vote Wednesday night, the Billings Board of Adjustment approved a variance allowing the structure to remain where it is — perched in a tree in the frontyard of the Olson family home.

Logan Olson, 8, and his brother Dillon, 12, testified and brought letters to the board urging it to grant  permission to keep the treehouse, in which a support post had been inadvertently placed too close to the sidewalk.  Earlier, they had gathered signatures from neighbors endorsing the unusual, 80-square-foot structure.

“I spent a lot of my summer hammering nails and putting in floorboards with my grandpa. I helped my grandma paint it…. Sometimes my cat even comes up there," Logan said in his letter, read to the board. “Please would you let us keep it, City Council?”

After that, reported the Billings Gazette, which attended the hearing,  “It would have taken a hard-hearted board to deny the boys their treehouse.”

City zoning administrator Nicole Cromwell told the Los Angeles Times that the board imposed two conditions: The treehouse can’t be replaced if it is damaged beyond 50% of its replacement value; and it must be secured from unauthorized entry.

She said the board split 3-3 and ultimately didn’t impose another condition that would have required any new owner of the Olson house to obtain a similar variance.

Although at least city resident had initially filed a query with the city, launching the variance process, any controversy had died by the time Dillon and Logan made their case to the board.

“There was no testimony against it,” Cromwell said.

The boys' mother, Kacey Olson, said her sons were thrilled with the outcome.

"Of course, it's been a really good experience for all of us," she said. "For the boys, it felt like it had been forever, because we were so worried about what might happen. It's a huge relief for all of us not to have to worry anymore."

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