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City Officials Now Say Tree House Open House Illegal, Too

September 9, 1987

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. (AP) _ A day after a man allowed people to tour the seven-level tree house the city says violates the building code, a city official said Tuesday that the tours were illegal, too.

″Those guys are too much. Everything’s illegal,″ said the owner of the tree house, Mark Tucker.

Tucker, who built the tree house at a cost of $7,500 for his five children, opened it to the public Monday, charging $2 a head to raise money to fight a city order that he make it conform to the building code or raze it.

Two reserve police officers directed traffic as people turned out for a look at the tree house, which has two rooms and seven verandas, with another veranda under construction.

Meanwhile, City Manager Jim Brimeyer said Tuesday that city officials would seek a court order to go on to Tucker’s property and tear down the tree house.

The city will recover the cost of demolition through an assessment on Tucker’s property taxes, said Harvey McPhee, inspectional services director for the city.

″I’ve hired a criminal attorney becuase I believe it’s a crime they are comitting against me and my family. The crime is trying to remove something from my property that is not hurting anybody,″ Tucker said after hearing about the city’s plans.

As of late Monday, Tucker said, about 1,570 people had signed a petition in support of the tree house and he had raised about $3,400 for the legal defense fund.

He had hoped to raise $10,000. ″So we may have two more open houses if the city doesn’t leave me alone,″ he said.

McPhee said Tuesday the open house was as illegal as the tree house, which was built without a permit and which lacks structural certification and other building specifications to meet code.

Tucker acknowledges the stair widths, rail heights and other construction details fail to meet the city code, but says he built the tree house to a more exacting set of standards.

The City Council had ordered Tucker, 37, an insurance broker, either to fix up the tree house or tear it down by Labor Day.

McPhee said Tucker’s popularity with the public could be fleeting. ″It could quickly change if somebody got hurt,″ he said.

Tucker says the open house was the ultimate demonstration of his tree house’s safety, however.

″We had 50 to 60 people at many times throughout the day in the tree house, and the old Tucker tree house didn’t even creak,″ he said.

Councilman Tom Duffy said officials weren’t picking on Tucker, just protecting the Minneapolis suburb’s 44,000 other residents.

″The bottom line is very simple. We have a liability,″ Duffy said Monday. ″If somebody fell out of the tree, a court will say we knew the tree house was there and we did not enforce our ordinance. We’ll be found liable.″

Potential damages could far surpass the $1 million insurance policy Tucker claims to have on the tree house, he said.

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