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‘Boat Home’ Hits Choppy Zoning Waters

Friday, August 9, 2013

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A Virginia Beach, VA, homeowner’s decades-long passion for his nautically enhanced home has finally run aground on the local zoning board.

"Captain" Tom Treesh’s “boat house” (which is built on solid land) has been beached by the board after an 11-year battle.

City zoning authorities ordered Treesh, who has spent about 20 years converting his 1948 home into a maritime masterpiece, to remove his exterior additions, including masts, propellers, decking and other nautical paraphernalia. His request for variances was denied Wednesday (Aug. 7).

Boat Home
www.WVEC.com

Authorities say homeowner Tom Treesh added boat-themed additions to his home in Virginia Beach, VA, without proper permits.

“It’s stupid,” Treesh told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper. “I can’t believe it.”

He was said to have gathered some 700 signatures from people who didn’t want to see the boat-themed home dismantled.

Rocky Waters

This wasn’t Treesh’s first clash with the zoning board. Zoning Administrator Karen Lasley reported in a staff summary, provided to D+D News, that Treesh had been directed to bring his home into full compliance with Virginia Beach zoning regulations back in 2002.

However, “it appears that the site was never brought into full compliance and that Mr. Treesh has added new structures since 2002,” she wrote.

Specifically, the large boat parts, decking and fencing installed do not meet zoning ordinances, including a 20-foot front yard setback requirement, eight-foot side yard setback, and right-of-way encroachments, according to Lasley’s report.

Navigating Ordinances

In April 2013, the city sent Treesh a letter noting that the boat house did not have the required permits and that the town had received numerous complaints about the construction on his property, according to The Virginian-Pilot. A copy of the letter was not immediately available for review.

Chesapeake Fishing Boat
Gbaddorf / Wikimedia Commons

Treesh reportedly gathered his nautical treasures from marina auctions and Chesapeake Beach boatyards.

So, Treesh, who has also been referred to as “Captain Tom,” appeared Wednesday before the Virginia Beach Board of Zoning Appeals requesting variances that would allow the boat house to remain intact.

He was denied on a 4-3 vote, local news outlets said.

Lasley wrote in the summary, “Staff appreciates Mr. Treesh’s artistic and creative ability, however, his eclectic additions appear to have reached a point where they overwhelm the streetscape and negatively impact the neighborhood.”

The board said it would work with him to bring his house into compliance with the city code, the news outlets reported.

Reports do not indicate whether Treesh will appeal the decision.

The unique home has attracted its share of tourists and has become a local landmark over the years, reports say.

'Blessed are the Weird People'

The controversy has sparked debate about zoning ordinances and homeowners’ rights. Many have expressed sympathy for Treesh on social media and other websites.

“The city needs to leave him alone and let him live,” writes Sylvia Wilson on Facebook. “He is not bothering anyone… If he is in violation of not getting permits then give him a waiver.”

Maggie Boylan added, “Blessed are the weird people poets, misfits, writers & troubadours. For they teach us to see the world through different eyes.”

While Facebook user Brian Howard agreed that Treesh should be able to do what he wants on his property, he also offered this view, in part: “The purpose of obtaining permits for construction is to ensure that it’s done safely, not just for him, but for future owners…as well as the safety of firefighters who may have to respond to a structure fire there to save his life because something was wired wrong or not properly attached to the home or foundation.”

“For the people who complain about aesthetics…get over yourself…Plant hedges between his house and yours.”

   

Tagged categories: Aesthetics; Architecture; Artists; Building codes; Design; Government; Regulations

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