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To beat the pandemic blues, an East Lansing family built a treehouse. The city says take it down.

Posted at 5:31 PM, May 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-10 01:25:14-04

EAST LANSING, Mich. — When Jessica Livingston and Ben Eysselinck bought their house in East Lansing 15 years ago, it was perfect.

“What seemed before to be a much bigger living space, very quickly became too small," Livingston said.

Eysselinck family
Livingston said her boys were miracles seven years ago.

Their family expanded when they had twins Theo and Gabe.

“Seven years ago we had two miracle boys,” Livingston said.

When the pandemic hit they found themselves stuck inside and spending a lot more time together in the small space.

“It’s been very challenging to try to find ways to get away from each other,” said Livingston.

So, they decided to branch out and build their second dream home.

“It was something we had talked about well before we had children,” Livingston said.

One that stands eight feet off the ground.

East Lansing family fighting to keep tree house
The family decided to build a tree house in their backyard.

A treehouse.

When Gabe and Theo found out they were getting a treehouse, they were thrilled.

“I felt great," said Gabe.

“I felt great," said Gabe.

But shortly thereafter, a neighbor complained.

A neighbor complained...

“The neighbor behind us had called the city to say that something was being built," Livingston said. “The inspector came to the house and just said 'hey, you know, what's going on in your backyard there?"

East Lansing family fighting to keep tree house
Livingston said they were one day away from finishing the tree house when they were asked to stop.

As a result, the family was asked to stop building.

“It’s about a foot off of both of the fence lines and the city is requiring 36 inches,” Livingston said.

Theo's first-grade class wrote many letters to the city begging them to let the treehouse stay.

They requested a variance with the cities zoning board and Theo's first-grade class wrote many letters to the city begging them to let the treehouse stay.

“I told them that next time I have my birthday we can all come to my house and go in the treehouse,” Theo said.

East Lansing family fighting to keep tree house
Theo's first grade class wrote letters as an assignment and several wrote letters to the city asking them to let the tree house stay.

The first date for their ordinance hearing was pushed back a month, so they patiently waited for their date in May. But it wasn't good news.

“They voted to not grant the variance of the 24 inches,” Livingston said.

The solution of picking up the treehouse and moving it isn't that simple.

“The amount of money and labor that it would take to try to physically move the structure the 24 inches that the city wants, it just doesn’t seem reasonable,” Livingston said.

East Lansing family fighting to keep tree house
Gabe Eysselinck hopes one day their tree house can be finished.

But she isn't going to give up for her boys.

“I feel like I need to stick to this I feel like I need to continue moving forward," Livingston said. “It’s for a good cause.”

Theo and Gabe are already making plans for when it's finished.

“The nerf arsenal, sniping my brother,” Theo said.

East Lansing family fighting to keep tree house
Theo Eysselinck said he looks forward to one day playing nerf wars with his brother in the tree house.

“I would like a pineapple in it,” said Gabe.

Even if that timeline is unpredictable.

“We don’t know,” Livingston said.

East Lansing's Planning and Zoning Administrator Peter Menser said the zoning board will approve the minutes from the May meeting at their meeting in June. The Eysselinck family will have 21 days after that to file an appeal with the circuit court, move the treehouse or tear it down.

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