Please verify

Watch LIVE

Montana Family Fighting City Over Zoning Ordinances in Order to Keep...Its Treehouse


“[S]omebody lodged a complaint with the city's Building Division because the Olsons hadn't obtained a building permit..."

(Photo: screen shot from Billings Gazette video)

(Photo: screen shot from Billings Gazette video)

A Billings, MT., family is fighting to keep their treehouse after officials cited it for violating city zoning regulations, the Billings Gazette reports.


“Logan and his parents, Scott and Kacey Olson, his grandparents and his brother Dillon, 12, built the elaborate treehouse in the front yard of the Olsons' house,” the Gazette notes. “By late June, Logan and Dillon had a solidly built, 17-foot-high, 80-square-foot treehouse with a deck on three sides.”

Logan Olson (Photo: screen shot from Billings Gazette video)

The treehouse quickly became a popular hangout for Logan and his friends. But it wasn’t long until the Olsons started getting grief from the city for their arboreal domicile.

“[S]omebody lodged a complaint with the city's Building Division because the Olsons hadn't obtained a building permit,” the Gazette reports. “As it turned out, they didn't need one. Nicole Cromwell, the city's zoning coordinator, said permits are unnecessary for buildings of less than 120 square feet.”

​You can watch a video tour of the tree house by clicking on the above photo.

Okay, so then what’s the problem?

“Although a ‘structure’ technically is a building on the ground, the treehouse does have four wooden support beams, which qualifies it as an ‘accessory structure,’” the report explains, “and zoning rules say accessory structures have to be set back at least 20 feet from the property line. The closest post is 5 feet, 6 inches from the front property line.”

But the Olsons weren’t going to take this lying down. A lot of time and effort had been put into that structure. Logan and his brother Dillon knocked on doors and collected 61 signatures of people “supporting a variance for their treehouse.”

(Photo: screen shot from Billings Gazette video)

"If you think it's a good idea that we should keep our treehouse, you should sign this," the boys would say to people they were soliciting signatures from.

Logan’s mother, Kacey, has formally requested from the city Board of Adjustment a variance from the setback requirements.

“She explained in her letter that they couldn't build a treehouse in the backyard because the only tree there is an evergreen. And though they unknowingly violated the law, she said, most of their neighbors don't seem to mind,” the Gazette notes.

Cromwell, the city zoning coordinator, says all code complaints must to be investigated no matter how small they may seem.

“In this case, she said, seeking a variance is probably the easiest way to resolve the issue,” the report notes.

Cromwell notes that a variance will probably be granted as variances for similar “accessory structures” have probably already been granted in that neighborhood.

"It's not out of character for the neighborhood," she said.

The Olsons will appear before the city Board of Adjustment on Dec. 5.

Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

Most recent
All Articles