Pennsylvania Family Pays $500 To Appeal Zoning Bans on Girl’s Tree House

Published June 15, 2015

Elise Truchan has learned some lessons in her first run-in with bureaucracy.

“I’ve learned that people lie,” is unfortunately one of them, her father recounted to

After Elise spent three months planning and then building an elaborate tree house for a school project, her family came home to find a note on their front door from the local building inspector telling them it had to come down

Now, in order to keep the treehouse from being torn down, the family has to pay $500 just for a chance at an official permission slip from Leet Township.

Elise Truchan built this tree house for an eighth-grade project, refusing almost all help from her father. “She wanted to do everything herself,” Jonathan Truchan said.

After the township first ordered the family to pull down the treehouse –turning the Truchans’ situation into fodder for local and then national news – the family tried to reach an understanding with their local officials.

The Truchans say they were told they’d be able to keep the tree house until Oct. 1 and then they would voluntarily demolish it. But building inspector Joe Luff had other ideas.

Luff told the Truchans he hadn’t agreed to the deal, said Elise’s father, Jonathan Truchan. Luff told them in a follow-up email to file for a variance, that official permission slip, “within the next 5 days or remove the tree house.”

So the Truchans have now applied for a variance, which now costs $500, even though the fee had been $200 when they first got the insidious note.

Read more at Pennsylvania Watchdog.

Rachel Martin ([email protected]) is an investigative reporter for based in Pittsburgh. An earlier version of this article appeared at Used with permission.