"The years long legal battle we’ve been embroiled in with Josephine County authorities began even before we built our first Treehouse in 1990. The following is a time line of the various skirmishes that have taken place over the years. Despite all their efforts to shut us down, we remained open for "business as unusual", and continue to grow." -Michael
LATEST TREEVELOPMENTS 2013 is that we are still negotiating with the County to make all of our habitable abodes legal for our permit, the beat goes on...
March 1998We won! The county has backed off, now that they've accepted our alternate construction methods and engineering as safe and sound. We've received permits for the treehouses that require them, and an expanded bed and breakfast license. We're still selling lots and lots of Treeshirts, especially the unique signed and dated variety. Call us at (541) 592-2208 to Treeserve one!
May 1990: We seek a permit to build a Treehouse and Building and Safety tells us we can’t even apply.
Summer 1990: The Peacock Perch is completed. June 1992: Planning department issues a shut down notice, ordering us to stop allowing the public into the Treehouses.
August 1992: Despite contreeversy, the Travel News Network features Out'n'About Treehouses on cable channels throughout the country. The syndicated show gives nine million people their first glimpse of our Treehouses and the phone, literally, "rings off the hook."
October 1992: Frustrated with trying to satisfy code requirements and in an attempt to get the county off his back, the Treesort announces a closure. Later, Michael calls it "the biggest mistake I ever made."
November 1992: People still want to stay in treehouses. Michael lets them and asks for a donation.
Spring 1993: Michael re-opens treehouses but keeps a low profile, not allowing any press stories.
Summer 1993: Business is slow. A lot of people have heard about treehouses but if you asked locally most people said they heard it was closed.
March 1994: We are featured in El Magazine and earn the cover shot in Peter Nelson's Treehouse Book. Unfortunately, the book lists a wrong address "Takilma" (Takilma is an old mining town that used to have a post office and no phone listing)... persevering people continue to find us.
April 1994: We host very special guests... a crew from Good Morning America... and are featured on the popular morning television show. We're listed as being "somewhere in Oregon." Persevering people continue to find us.
June 1994: Building issues a tear down order at the same time the trio of county commissioners (read Tree Stooges) signs an order to cease and desist. Michael announces that, while the county may be able to stop him from renting the Treehouses, he can "still sell shirts... they're just gonna cost a lot more."
June 26, 1994: The county building department rescinds its tear down order after publicity shows how popular the treehouses are. The cease and desist order, however, remains in place. Michael announces a planned "stress test" for the following Monday, July 4, and asks for friends and volunteers to help.
July 4, 1994: Out ‘n’ About hosts our First Annual Takilma Tree Party, piling 66 people, tree dogs and a Kat (not to mention a hummingbird, which may or may not have been lighted) into and onto the Peacock Perch. Total weight: 10, 664 pounds. It's Interdependance Day and all three major network news crews show up, along with the print media. That night our Tree Ring Circus is featured, along with the nation's other major fireworks shows, on network news shows throughout the country.
July 10, 1994: Michael talks with then Building Department director Frank Hunnicutt, who agrees that Michael can let "friends" stay in the Treehouses. And we make lots and lots of friends...
July 12,1994: Sitting around with a couple of friends, including Delaware's favorite prodigal son, Matt Delpizzo, the Treemusketeers are born. Delpizzo mentions what a "treemendous" experience staying in a Treehouse is, and the advent of Treeminology dominates the remainder of the summer, branching out into jocularitree that just won't leaf our heads.
Shortly thereafter, Michael applies for, and receives, a license to sell "noveltree" items, including our now famous Treeshirts.
As a result of the successful test and subsequent publicitree, the county backs off and we settle down to the sweet business of selling Treeshirts
September 14, 1994: Michael goes to Salem and comes home with ruling 94-22, a State Building Board directive telling the county that alternative stress tests, proving the structural integrity of unique and unusual buildings (including Treehouses) can be used to acquire building permits.
1995: Relative peace and harmony as friends continue to come and go by the car, camper, truck and mini-van load.
May 7, 1996: A delusional neighbor, who perceives the platform for the new Tree Room School House Suite to be an "observation post" for the powers that be to watch him, complains to authorities. As a result, the county planning department tells us we need a development permit for the suite because it is built over land zoned as exclusive farmland.
May 23, 1996: Fed up with the Tree Stooges, who coerced a local tourism promotional campaign into leaving us out of their brochure, which was developed, printed and distributed with federal funds, Michael announces he's so disgusted with local politics he'll stop attempting to acquire building permits.
"They can shove it, as far as I'm concerned," he tells the press. They quote him.
August 10, 1996: The newest and current hassle begins when Joseph County's legal counsel files for an injunction, asking we be ordered to tear down the Treehouses.
August 12, 1996: Michael receives notice from a circuit court judge that he is ordered to appear before the court the following September 23 to show cause why an injunction shouldn't be issued.
September 14, 1996: We counter sue the county, asking for $50,000 in damages. In a brief to the court, we label the county's request for an injunction "a fraud and a sham."
November 1996: Irv Whitting is replaced by Jim Brock as one of the county commissioners
April 12, 1997: With the county's suit set for trial on July 2, the Associated Press sends a story across the nation tracing our plight. Response from friends and other media alike is comforting.
April 14, 1997: We receive a call from a New York television show. It's the third we've received but this one is different. It's a) from the producer, rather than a reporter and, b) from Comedy Central.
April 24, 1997: The Daily Show's roving host, A. Whitney Brown, along with producer Kahana Corn and a Portland film crew, show up to film politically satirical piece for multiple national airings. (Video available for viewing with visit.)
June 16, 1997: The circuit court hears arguments for (and against) the county's request for an injunction/tear down order. In an attempt to avoid a trial, county counsel asks for a summary judgment. Michael announces the "official" opening of the Treehouse Institute of Takilma on July 4. He says it'll assure Intreependence Day as "either a celebration or a class in civil disobedience."
June 25, 1997: Against the odds, the judge GRANTS THE SUMMARY JUDGMENT! He also orders the parties to appear before him on July 24.
July 1, 1997: The day before our scheduled court date, which was negated by the summary judgment, we submit structural approval from our licensed engineer.
July 4, 1997: Our fourth annual Interdependance Day celebration is highlighted by the grand opening of the Treehouse Institute of Takilma, an avocation school not recognized by Josephine County, despite fitting a description of a legal school in the Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS 345) and State Supreme Court law.
July 1997: August issue of Smithsonian magazine hits the news stands. Michael is quoted as referring to the local officials as the "Tree Stooges".
July 11, 1997: We reapplied to the Planning Department for status as an avocation career school. Also filed the same papers with the court... which promptly "misplaced" them.
July 17, 1997: Submitted all of the engineer's notes for the Suite and the Peacock Room to the Building and Safety Department but they refused them, saying they weren't in the right form.
July 22, 1997: County counsel Marc Kardell cruises the neighborhood, seeking neighbors to complain in court about the Treesort. He finds eleven people to subpoena.
July 24, 1997: Michael refuses to attend the "penalty" hearing, sending Branch Manager T.A. Allan with his "standing argument." The entire family also sits in the back of the courtroom, amazed to see eight (only eight of the eleven subpoenaed bothered to show up) neighbors in attendance. None testified, though Kardell (falsely) assured the judge they all had "problems" with the Treesort.
In his argument, Kardell asks the judge to order the Treehouses torn down, but he refuses to go that far, no doubt fearing the publicity blitz it would create. Instead he tells Kardell to write an order requiring us to cease allowing the public into the Treehouses until such time as we acquire building permits (HA!) from building and safety and a development permit from planning.
The judge says only "Michael and his son" are to enter the Treehouses. T.A. points out to counsel that Michael also has daughters and asks if the county's message is that "Treehouses are only for boys?...No girls allowed?" The order is changed to include Michael's daughters, both of his sons and his significant other, Peggy, as well as her two children
July 25, 1997: Kardell writes the order and mails it to us, giving us ten days to respond before the judge signs the order. Two delays ensue.
July 26, 1997: We receive Kardell's order and have a good laugh, though we're not really sure at whose expense.
July 30, 1997: The mailbox is full, with requests for information, treeservations and deposits. There are also two amendments to the order from Kardell, delaying the signing.
Saturday, August 9, 1997: A film crew from "Dream Builders" is on campus to shoot, among other things, 100 Treemusketeers.
They'll be "stress testing" the Swiss Family Complex. This final test will lead to all the Treehouses being "signed off" by engineer Charlie Greenwood and put the ball back in the county's court...
By 1:30 we've completed the stress test. Ninety-three Treemusketeers, after being duly sworn in and weighed, climbed in, on and upon the complex, along with two dogs and a 2 lb. chicken, to prove it's structural integrity.
August 1997: Planning Department rejects application for Treehouse Institute. Michael appeals to Board of County Commissioners.
Sept.3, 1997: THE COUNTY'S ORDER PROHIBITING ANYONE OTHER THAN MICHAEL AND HIS IMMEDIATE FAMILY FROM ENTERING THE TREEHOUSES WAS SIGNED BY JUDGE GERALD NEUFELD . ACTUALLY, IT WAS, LITERALLY, RUBBER STAMPED.
THE ORDER PROHIBITS ANYONE OTHER THAN MICHAEL, PEGGY, THEIR CHILDREN, OR OUR ENGINEER FROM ENTERING THE TREEHOUSES UNTIL WE ACQUIRE BUILDING PERMITS FOR THE STRUCTURES AND A DEVELOP PERMIT FOR THE INSTITUTE.
IN THE MEANTIME, SHOULD ANYONE OTHER THAN THOSE AUTHORIZED GO INTO THE TREEHOUSES, MICHAEL WILL BE HELD IN CONTEMPT OF COURT.
THEREFORE, HE EXTENDS A SINCERE INVITATION TO ALL
TREEMUSKETEERS TO JOIN HIM OUT ON A LIMB.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 6, 1997: TODAY JUDGE ALLAN COON SIGNED AN ORDER REQUIRING JOSEPHINE COUNTY TO PRESENT ITSELF IN COURT ON NOVEMBER 10 AND EXPLAIN WHY OFFICIALS HAVE BEEN REFUSING TO PROCESS OUR APPLICATIONS FOR DEVELOPMENT PERMITS SINCE THE COURT ORDERED US CLOSED LAST MONTH.
THIS IS IN RESPONSE TO OUR FILING LAST WEEK OF A MOTION AND ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE Re: CONTEMPT AND/OR DIRECTIVE ORDER.
October 13 1997: County gets ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE Re: CONTEMPT AND/OR DIRECTIVE ORDER against Michael for violating Sept. 3, Court Order. County once again ask for order to tear down treehouses.
November 1997: Board of County Commissioners hearing on school application. Michael figures commissioners will have to answer to the public if they deny request for school. Haugan and Borngasser two of the original "Tree Stooges" disqualify themselves. They said they could not be impartial because Michael has been calling them names in the national press.
February 1998: Hearing on Contempt charges. County presents witness from county enforcement. She stated that with binoculars she saw a man come out of the suite in the morning in his pajamas and sit on the porch. Michael stipulated that people had entered the treehouses. Judge Neufeld took the case under advisement and adjured.
1998 - 2008 no newz was good...
Then in 2008 an unfortunate accident occurred to a couple of our guests, self admittedly by their own actions, and yet they eventually still sued. We wanted to fight it in court, as an avoidable accident by admitted irresponsible patrons, we had a good case, many eye witnesses saw them abusing the bridge rail they broke when one fell off, pulling the other along... The initial reports of their injuries were not that bad, but our insurance company decided to settle anyway, then it happens with out admitting responsibility and it's over. Everyone moves on...
The same people above who had settled their case with us, now sue Josephine County claiming the county failed to inspect and issue permits for construction of the bridge they fell from; failed to require the design to meet applicable standards; and failed to stop the resort from building structures without inspections and permits.
So the county eventually settled their case also, but this time seems the couple was greedier, so it cost the county more money than ours did.
Obviously then the county sues us in return to recover their costs and fees, threatening to revoke our permit as being out of compliance in the process saying, "We had to file this lawsuit to prevent further harm caused by the defendants' continued violation of codes." This in spite of the fact we have had thousands and thousands of visitors over the years without one single similar incident.
BUT even tho we could easily qualify on engineering and safety standards, they won't even allow us to BE within those codes we meet or exceed...
Our original Catch 22 catches us up once again. The local county can't issue a permit to occupy our perches without an inspection, and we can't get an inspection without a developmental permit, can't get a developmental permit without fitting a category proper for our zoning, apparently we have to get state legislation in order to fit a category that doesn't exist yet so the locals can approve us, well over ten years ago now and we are still waiting.
Basically right where we left off in '98. When we applied for a developmental permit to expand our burgeoning treesort to the Treehouse Institute under the School Use of Right rule on our forest land zoning. We lost that original argument, then could not use the 'intend to start a terror school' inside joke after 9/11 anymore either... but we were allowed to re-apply on appeal.
Eventually more and more people kept coming and coming over the years, and the School of Treehouse Building kept producing more and more treehouses to accommodate them. We prove the engineering and health and safety codes are all met or exceeded to qualify for the right permits, but we can't get the inspection to approve them for occupancy with out the developmental permit we need first.
And even though we are still sorting out how to do that, we won't give up until we get it!
Please stay tuned at our Facebook page for updates and how you can help!
Thanks for reading...