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Thursday, December 18, 2014

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ZBA branches out, grants approval to Wright Street tree house

Published 7:51 am, Thursday, August 21, 2014

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  • This tree house at 71 Wright St. recently was granted a variance by the Zoning Board of Appeals. Photo: Jarret Liotta / Westport News

    This tree house at 71 Wright St. recently was granted a variance by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

    Photo: Jarret Liotta

 

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While it's apparently had the approval of neighborhood kids for some time, a large tree house on Wright Street now also has the officials imprimatur of the Zoning Board of Appeals.

In the process of seeking a variance for renovations and an addition at their 71 Wright St. home, Alison and Brendan Reilly found they also needed to get an accessory structure variance for an approximately 100-square-foot tree house that actually was erected four years ago.

"The kids love it," said Alison Reilly, who has five children of her own, but invites other neighborhood youngsters to enjoy the unique structure.

"The neighbors built gates through their fences so they can get their kids into the yard," she said.

Reilly said she that after having worked on construction of the playground at Compo Beach, a retired builder she met helped her construct the tree house, which she herself played a prominent role.

"That was before the famous tree house program," she said, referring to the Animal Planet show, "Treehouse Masters."

While Reilly said the tree house has no running water and a fair share of insects, from the outside it resembles as fine a structure as one is likely to see in Fairfield County.

"It's over 16 feet tall," she said. "They said that I should add this on to this whole process to legalize that."

"It's a very cool tree house," said James Ezzes, ZBA chairman. "I want to live there."

Reilly and her husband are also planning a second-story addition to their home, extending over an area that they already have a variance for at ground level.

The ZBA conditionally approved both variances, with the proviso that the back patio be moved out of the current setback area, and that an exact measurement be made on the total height of the tree house.

"It's not entirely clear where these measurements are being taken from, as there's no grade," said Laurence Bradley, the zoning director. "We usually measure building height from grade."

ZBA also discussed some confusion regarding a cupola at the front of the structure, which impacted measurement.

Since the property is in a historic district, Reilly had to present approval from others in the area. "I have letters from all the neighbors ... saying that they are good with building an addition," she said.

Asked about the standard "hardship" needed for ZBA approval for the variance needed for the addition, Reilly said, "When we bought the house we had zero children, and now we have five."

"Are they living in the tree house?" Ezzes asked, to which Reilly joked, "That's where they go when they don't behave."