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Treehouse trouble leads to backyard battle in Calgary

WATCH: A Calgary family involved in a backyard battle over a treehouse is fighting to keep it standing. Global’s Tomasia DaSilva reports on the dispute and what you can do to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

A treehouse in the southwest Calgary community of Killarney has divided neighbours.

Colin Whyte built the treehouse in his backyard almost a decade ago. He said everything was fine until two years ago, when a new development went up next door.

“Nobody said boo about it before,” Whyte claimed.

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Calgary family fights to keep treehouse standing
Calgary family fights to keep treehouse standing Global News

The developer of the new multi-family building, Millenium Plus Homes, filed a complaint with the City of Calgary about the treehouse.

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The builder did not respond to Global News’ repeated requests for a comment, but in a letter to the city, president and CEO Shameer Gaidhar wrote: “There are major safety issues at play here. The safety of my future buyers, and the safety of the owner of the treehouse. It is in very rough condition and not constructed properly. The treehouse is extremely close to our property line.”

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Whyte said city officials eventually came by his home and measured the treehouse. It was determined the structure was too high off the ground to comply with the land use bylaw.

Whyte said he was also asked if he had a permit for the structure — which he did not.

“I should have,” he added. “That was my bad. I wasn’t aware that you needed a permit to put a treehouse up.”

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Whyte attempted to get a permit in June but was turned down.

He then went to the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board, but due to a technicality, the board did not hear his appeal.

City officials told Global News while this treehouse didn’t comply with bylaws, most other backyard play structures don’t need a permit.

Jennifer Crack, a liaison between the city and homeowners, said it depends on a number of factors.

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“A lot of the time, we want to look at consideration for the neighbours — so it would be distances between,” Crack said. “It could be height, and a lot of time when we look at height, it’s a lot to do with safety. The restrictions are there so we can ensure safety.”

City officials also said they generally do not like to refuse structures like this, and the city is not anti-treehouse.

“Absolutely not, I love treehouses,” Crack said.

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Calgary family fights to keep treehouse standing
Calgary family fights to keep treehouse standing Global News

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The city said while it didn’t find a solution that worked for all parties, it will help the owners with a new application, if they decide to go forward with changes to the structure.

Whyte added he hoped that won’t mean tearing it down, as it’s been a great addition to his home and his family.

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“I built it for my stepson and his friends to have a place to call their own.”