A labor of love between a father and his two sons will have to be torn down after the University Park City Council declined to amend a city ordinance that prohibits the structure.
Brenk Johnson built a tree house in a large oak tree in his front yard because there wasn't a tree big enough to support one in his backyard. But weeks after it went up, an anonymous neighbor called the city wondering if the structure violated city code -- which it did.
"It's called accessory buildings that are prohibited. Basically, it's anything of a permanent nature," said Steve Mace, a city spokesman. "As you know, driving through our community, you'll see lots of soccer nets and trampolines, basketball poles, but none of those structures that are currently in front yards are of a permanent nature like Mr. Johnson's tree house."
At a council meeting Tuesday, the Johnsons asked the city to amend the city code and give them an exception to the city code or simply wait for their kids to outgrow the tree house before they tore it down.
Council members said they sympathized with the family's plight but could not make an exception or amend the city code for one family.
Johnson said he and his children were disappointed by the council's unanimous vote.
"But you know, it's still a great community," Johnson said. "We love living here. The council was great. They worked with us. They gave us all the time we needed to present out argument."
He said he felt the family "had to try" to get an exception made for their tree house, but they will abide by the council's decision.
"This is as far as we ever planned on going," Johnson said.
Letters to city spilled in from neighbors who said the tree house was a great and safe way for their kids to play together. And Johnson said he appreciated the support from the community.
Tree houses are allowed in University Park, but not in front yards.
"We have tons of neighbors, a ton of kids on the block. That's what you do when you're a kid, climb tree houses and we don't have any backyards," said Anne Hardaway, who lives down the street from the Johnsons.
There was no immediate word on when the tree house will be torn down.
"We are just going to work with the city to take it down, I guess," Johnson said.