The Washington Post

Fairfax County tree house builder gets petition support in zoning fight


The Grapins’ tree house (Courtesy of Mark Grapin)

Change.org shows that more than 700 people have asked the county to cut Mark W. Grapin’s some slack instead of cutting down his boys’ tree cabin.

Grapin, who promised to build his two sons a tree house beside their Falls Church home before leaving for another tour to Iraq, made national news because of structure. The county, responding to anonymous complaints, said the tree house violated the zoning code. Since then, Grapin, 51, has spent more money on the zoning fight than he spent building the thing.

“The tree house really kind of stood for something,” said Cameron Dunbar-Yamaguchi, 29, a sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve who lives in Portland, Ore. “I thought, man, what a shame if they took advantage of him and made him take it down.”

Dunbar-Yamaguchi, who serves in a combat support hospital in Vancouver, said Friday he started the petition on Change.org after seeing Grapin’s story on Fox News.

“It’s kind of hard to make a concrete promise that, hey, I’m coming home safe,” Dunbar-Yamaguchi said in an interview. “But you can make a concrete promise of a tree house.”

But county officials said the law is the law, which is meant to ensure that everybody’s neighborhood is clean and safe. The Board of Zoning Appeals denied Grapin’s request for a zoning variance but has agreed to review its decision on Nov. 30.

Fredrick Kunkle runs the Tripping blog, writing about the experience of travel. Freddy's also covered politics, courts, police, and local government. Before coming to The Washington Post, he worked for the Star-Ledger and The Bergen Record.

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