In western Massachusetts, a town’s insistence that a treehouse for a young man with cerebral palsy cannot be built is running into a buzzsaw of pushback from neighbors who say it should be.
Brandon Nestor, 15, is confined to a wheelchair. His parents have wanted to build the treehouse for him but the West Springfield Zoning Board of Appeals has rejected a variance because the second floor is above the roof line of the primary residence and the set back is too close to the rear and side yard line.
Second floor? On a treehouse?
This isn’t an ordinary “treehouse.”
Typically in these disputes, neighbors are opposed to a structure this big.
But not these neighbors. They’ve been plastering the neighborhood with lawn signs. Other kids have been tacking posters up on utility poles.
The family is suing the city, saying the size of the treehouse is necessary because of accessibility requirements. To reject it, they say, is to violate the Fair Housing Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act.
“There’s a long list of things he can do. There’s also a long list of things he probably couldn’t participate in,” his father, Mike Nestor, tells the Boston Globe. “And this would really be a life-changing thing, for him to have a place where he can go and hang out and observe nature.”
The reason the city is against the idea is familiar. If you let one family build a treehouse for a kid in a wheelchair, pretty soon every kid in a wheelchair will want one.
“There’s abutting property owners on both sides, and it will set a precedent for the rest of the town,” town lawyer William Reichelt said.
But the town appears ready to back down. “We are going to get him his treehouse,” Reichelt tells the Globe. “I promise.”