City Threatens Child’s Remarkable Playhouse Over Zoning Laws

(Photo: WESH-TV)

There aren’t many who didn’t dream of having a playhouse of their own when they were a child.  Most of us sufficed with temporary blankets draped over furniture as an improvised fort, but a 5-year-old in Ocala, Florida, is one of the lucky ones who actually got everything he dreamed of.  Built of wood, the miniature edifice looks like something out of a fairytale.  It’s surrounded by lush flowers, and even has a television inside.

But according to WESH-TV, since the playhouse isn’t in compliance with the city’s zoning regulations, the D’Annunzio family could have to tear it down.

There are, apparently, two problems with the playhouse.  First, the family put it in the front yard because they didn’t have spaced in the back.  Second, since the family’s home dates to the early 1900’s and is in the historic district, they need approval from the Historic Preservation Board.   They need to pay $1000 to apply for a variance for the first “offense,” which the family says it can’t responsibly pay.

“I can’t afford $1,000 to just apply for a variance.  I don’t have that type of money,” Robert D’Annunzio, a barber, said.  “I find it offensive that I can’t have a playhouse for my child on my own property.”

(Photo: WESH-TV)
(Photo: WESH-TV)

If the family refuses to comply within 120 days, they will reportedly face a $25 daily fine.

They were actually warned by code enforcement authorities when they were constructing the playhouse back in December, but proceeded to build it anyway.

Thomas Dobbins, the special magistrate, reprimanded them during a hearing last Thursday: “You understand that you have to obtain the right permits to do that?  You were informed about that, and then you proceeded to complete construction.”

But Robert D’Annunzio explained, according to “I didn’t get a rule book when I bought the house…I’m just trying to live my life on my property.  I think people should be able to live in their own property.”

The family says their son will be “devastated” if they have to tear it down.

(Photo: WESH-TV)

But the city isn’t the only body that takes issue with the playhouse.  Local reports indicate the neighborhood itself is divided.

One man who lives down the street told WESH-TV the playhouse looks like “junk,” but another woman said: “I just think it’s a sweet little family and it’s a cute little house…and I think they have a right to have that…”

Danielle D’Annunzio reportedly turned on her critics during last week’s hearing.  “I don’t know what I did to these people. I’m just trying to be a mom. That’s all I am doing,” she said.

But Jane Cosand, a member of the Ocala Historic Preservation Advisory Board, said she objects to the playhouse in her role as a private citizen.

“He (D’Annunzio) knew he had to get a (certificate of appropriateness),” she remarked.