Toronto

Toronto's mayor says boat-treehouse can be saved, but staff says its creator may face charges

City of Toronto officials say they plan to charge a dad who build a massive boat-inspired treehouse for his children, even after the mayor said he wants to see the structure saved.

John Alpeza built the 108-square-foot boat-treehouse for his kids without getting city permits

John Alpeza stands in front of his treehouse/boat structure. (Makda Ghebreslassie/CBC)

City of Toronto officials say they plan to charge a dad who built a massive boat-inspired treehouse for his children, even though the mayor says he wants to see the structure saved. 

The city ordered John Alpeza to dismantle the 108-square-foot, $30,000 boat-inspired treehouse after a complaint from a neighbour. Alpeza had failed to get the necessary permits before building it, but said he applied to the city last fall. He learned last week that his application was rejected.

City staff said Alpeza ignored notices to change the design of his treehouse.

Mayor John Tory said he believes the structure can be salvaged if Alpeza makes some changes to it. Tory said he admired Alpeza's "immense creativity" after seeing pictures of the treehouse, but city staff have to be mindful of both safety and "neighbourhood considerations."

Toronto Mayor John Tory says that city staff are in talks with the father who built a treehouse for his children that has been ordered torn down. (CBC News)
"I think what we should do is make sure that what is not going on here is overly zealous bureaucrats simply responding because somebody phoned them," Tory told reporters during a press conference on an affordable-housing initiative.

"I've certainly just asked this morning for our people to take another look at it," he said, adding that city staff have told Alpeza of steps he can take to bring the treehouse into compliance with city regulations.

"My understanding is those steps have not yet been taken and those discussions are ongoing," he said.

City staff will lay charges

Mark Sraga, director of investigations for the city, said on Wednesday afternoon that the city will be laying charges for violating zoning bylaws.

Sraga said a complaint was lodged about the treehouse in June 2014, though at the time staff determined a building permit wasn't required. But that August, city staff investigated and found the structure exceeded the maximum allowable height.

Sraga said the owner was given a violation notice and told to either apply for a minor variance to the zoning bylaw or change the design of his treehouse.

"To date, there has been no action taken by the owner," Sraga said in a statement to CBC News.

Because Alpeza has ignored multiple city orders, Sraga said, staff will go ahead with the charges, which fall under the Planning Act. It's unclear what kind of fine he may face. 

'Soreheads and party-poopers'

Tory said he's hoping a resolution can be reached without city officials "looking like we're soreheads and party-poopers."

The boat-style treehouse sits atop a dead tree in Alpeza's Bloor West Village backyard, stretching beyond the tree and overlooking his neighbour's backyard. 

The treehouse also has all the features of a boat, with a hull, ship's wheel, bell and even an anchor. It's made of cedar, considered a superior material for building boats that go in the water.

Alpeza has vowed not to take it down.

A treehouse that looks like the hull of a boat sits in Alpeza's west-end backyard. (John Alpeza/Facebook)

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