City officials say a large treehouse that appeared above an east Medford neighborhood last fall must be drastically modified or taken down within 90 days.
Homeowner Aaron Ford built the treehouse, which towers over the Lazy Creek bike path behind Greenbrook Drive, for his 5-year-old son. It measures 8 feet wide, 10 feet long and 11 feet tall. The top of the treehouse is about 20 to 21 feet from the ground.
Ford's next-door neighbor, Beth Powell, raised concerns when Ford began building the tree house 16 inches from her fence line, despite city municipal codes requiring a minimum 4-foot setback.
Ford moved the tree house back to nearly 4 feet from Powell's property line. Powell contacted the city about the structure's sheer size and height and said windows added on three sides invaded her privacy.
Under the city's municipal code, buildings of up to 15 feet in height must have a 4-foot setback from side and rear property lines, with an additional half-foot setback for each additional foot in height. Under city guidelines, a tree house with an overall elevation of 20 to 21 feet would require a 61/2- to 7-foot setback.
Medford Assistant Planning Director Bianca Petrou said in a letter sent this week that Ford must move the treehouse farther from Powell's fence line or reduce the structure's highest point to no more than 15 feet from the ground.
A disappointed Ford said Friday he would not tear the structure down after he spent months building it for his son.
He hoped to come up with a solution to keep the treehouse and adhere to city ordinances.
"There's absolutely no way to move it back," he said. "So I guess it's going to just have to be restructured, and it's going to be an incredible amount of work, but I'll have to figure it out."
Powell expressed frustration that Ford had not thoroughly reviewed all building code requirements and setback ordinances prior to erecting the treehouse.
"The city gave me a copy of the letter and it gives him until June 8," Powell said. "I'll be very happy if he conforms to the city code. It's funny to me that he spent all that time and money and didn't find out what he was and was not allowed to do."
Ford said he might set his sights on a two-story play space with a lower level at the base of the tree and "a little outpost" reaching to the permitted 15 feet for his son to climb up to.
"My son was pretty upset when he heard we might have to take it down," Ford said. "I want to try and restructure it if I can."
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.