Complaint filed over treehouse

Ombudsman to examine whether Township ‘acted fairly and reasonably’

A Brookswood couple who have been told that their children’s treehouse contravenes the Township’s zoning bylaw have filed a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner.

Richard and Haide Giesbrecht’s case is also being examined by the B.C. Office of the Ombudsman.

This is where residents turn to if they feel that a provincial government ministry or public agency has treated them unfairly.

The Ombudsman’s role is to impartially investigate a complaint to determine whether public agencies have acted fairly and reasonably, and whether their actions and decisions were consistent with relevant legislation, policies and procedures.

The Ombudsman’s office “has started an official investigation,” Haide Giesbrecht confirmed on Jan. 9.

Last summer, the Township’s inspection department ruled that adding a treehouse to the top of the Giesbrechts’ 10 x 12 garden shed contravened the zoning bylaw.

The Giesbrechts, however, saw the treehouse, with its three ladders and a slide, not only as a bona fide play area for their children, but as place of refuge for their 10-year-old daughter who has sensory processing difficulties.

The Township ruled that the structure didn’t fit the conventional description of treehouse.

It was not built in a tree, but was actually a playhouse on top of a garden shed.

According to the zoning bylaw, accessory buildings such as detached garages, sheds, pool houses and playhouses cannot exceed 3.75 m, or one storey, whichever is less. The treehouse exceeds that limit.

The Giesbrechts lost an appeal to the Board of Variance.

In October, the couple took their case to council who turned it over the building inspection department. The Township will hold off enforcing the zoning bylaw until a report, which council requested, has been completed.