City of University Park Took the Treehouses From Children, Now They Want Their Smashball Courts Too

University Park resident and super dad Kyle Green has been hearing his son, Colby, talk about a game called Smashball since playing it at Camp Ozark last summer. A couple of weeks ago on March 26, Green decided to get the neighborhood kids off the couch and away from the Xbox by building the structure necessary for some Smashball smack downs on the vacant lot next door.

A few days later the game was in full swing but so was Mike Brackin from code enforcement with the City of University Park. Brackin showed up on the scene, knocked on some doors and ultimately told Green that “it must be removed in the next couple of days.” According to Green, Brackin claims the Smashball structure violates section 21 of the zoning code.

(c) Location of Dwellings and Buildings Only one (1) main building use with permitted accessory buildings may be located upon a lot or approved building site unless such structures are located on an officially approved site plan. Each dwelling shall face or front upon a public street or approved place, but shall not face an alley.Accessory Building or Use, Residential means a subordinate, detached building or structure in a residential district, used for a purpose customarily incidental to the main structure, such as a private garage for automobile storage, tool house, lath or greenhouse as a hobby (no business), home workshop, servants quarters, children’s playhouse, storage house, garden shelter or swimming pool, but not involving the conduct of a business, nor used as a dwelling area or place of abode except as noted under “Servants Quarters” as defined in this Section.Accessory Use means a use subordinate to and incidental to the primary use of the main building or to the primary use of the premises.

The vacant lot on the 4300 block of Purdue is owned by local real estate agent, Anne Oliver. Oliver would not comment on whether or not she approves but did say, “It’s against the law to build a structure on someone else’s property without permission.” Oliver said the lot has been vacant for a few months and that she is unsure of her plans for the property.   

Brackin is out of the office until April 12 but his colleague, Russell Craig, said that it does need to come down though he’s unaware of the exact deadline. When asked why it must be removed he said, “Number 1, it’s a vacant lot. Number 2, he doesn’t own the lot. And number 3, it’s a structure without a main building.” When asked if any complaints had been received, Craid said, “I think so but I’m not sure.” 

Green says the structure isn’t permanent but that it would need to be disassembled in order to relocate it. 

That would be a shame according to neighbor Cynthia Smoot who agrees that the game has offered children a way to get outside and play safely without being in the street. 

Seriously, go get the drug dealers and leave the Smashball arena alone. Unless the lot owner wants the thing off her property, but remember, no comment on that.

18 thoughts on “City of University Park Took the Treehouses From Children, Now They Want Their Smashball Courts Too

  • April 8, 2011 at 11:28 am
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    I have to say, building something in a vacant lot owned by someone else – without clearing it with the owner -does seem to be reaching a bit. However, if the owner of the lot says it’s okay, then I’m all for it.

    It still makes no sense whatsoever that big, multi-colored trampolines, lax goals, etc. are allowed, but small, well-built treehouses and structures like this one are not. The City (and the City Council) just blindly point to the statute on the books, but I think the point is that a pretty good chunk of people in the neighoborhodd want the statute changed – or at least want to open a discussion about it.

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  • April 8, 2011 at 11:38 am
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    @1Zima2Many, I agree 100% and that’s exactly why I was super interested in whether Oliver was OK with it. I was surprised that she wasn’t willing to say one way or the other.

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  • April 8, 2011 at 12:06 pm
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    I think by saying that it is illegal to build on someone else’s property without permission and by not giving permission (not to mention that it doesn’t appear they even asked her) she is saying that she is not OK with it.

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  • April 8, 2011 at 12:13 pm
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    The city needs to consider the potential income from building permit fees for tree house construction and tree house building inspector job security. This could be a good thing. Think of it, a whole generation of kids being raised to play outside. Oh, the possibilities!

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  • April 8, 2011 at 12:59 pm
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    If the property owner oks the structure (a pic of the structure would be nice, I have no idea what we are talking about here) and allows all the neighborhood children to use it on her property, she will be then 100% liable for any injuries that happen during the games. Period. Some kid gets smashed in the head and paralyzed? Deep doodoo for the property owner. Y’all can be up in arms all you like about too much government, but this seems like a no-brainer for me. I can’t imagine thinking it’s OK to go onto someone elses property and build something, especially if that something then attracts hordes of kids to go to on the property, without the property owners permission, and to play something called SMASH ball. “Super dad”? Seems like he’s trouble making dad, doing all he can to goad the city. He gets busted for building one unpermited yard structure, causes a huge stink about it and loses, then goes onto someone elses property without permission and builds another unpermited structure for all the world to see? Now he’s causing another big stink about it? Groundhog Day Dad.

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  • April 8, 2011 at 1:19 pm
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    Kmom, I think Merritt’s headline has led you to believe this is the same dad who was embroiled in the treehouse controversy. That was a different dad (Brenk Johnson) on a different street (Wentwood).

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  • April 8, 2011 at 1:37 pm
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    Oh good God. It’s time for fire-up-the-outrage-bus-Friday. Where to begin with this one?

    He built this thing (whatever it is) on someone else’s property. Game over.

    And Merritt, Anne Oliver probably doesn’t want to comment further because she doesn’t want to make a huge stink in her neighborhood. She probably called the city, asked them to deal with it, they did, and then somehow (probably through Kyle Green) this nothingburger found its way to you. This “super dad” sounds a bit childish. The city tells him he has to stop trespassing on someone else’s property so he runs crying to a certain contributor to a local pageview-hungry blog who he knows will take up his cause.

    “Unless the lot owner wants the thing off her property, but remember, no comment on that.”

    Oh snap.

    But seriously, that is such BS. She doesn’t owe you an explanation, although she did say “It’s against the law to build a structure on someone else’s property without permission.” Read between the lines. There’s your explanation.

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  • April 8, 2011 at 1:59 pm
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    I think kmom is right: Whether Oliver (or the lot’s owner) even THOUGHT is was okay to have it there, I’m sure their lawyer said “Um… not a good idea”. The first kid that gets hurt is going to have a lawsuit written up by their parents before the first drop of blood hits the grass.

    Too bad, though. Sounds like a great thing and fun for the kids.

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  • April 8, 2011 at 2:50 pm
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    Totally agree on the potential liability implications in the event one of the kids gets hurt. We have an old-fashioned swing in our front yard that is a magnet for kids walking home from school. I love to look out the window and see a random neighborhood kid swinging – but I admit to often cringing at the thought of one of them falling and the liability we could conceivably face. So far, the swing still hangs but…

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  • April 8, 2011 at 4:58 pm
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    Some people have trampolines in their front yards. I always wonder about their liability insurance.

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  • April 8, 2011 at 8:27 pm
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    Why does this sort of issue continue to generate “press.” Becasue of the controversy? We have better things to deal with.

    >>”It still makes no sense whatsoever that big, multi-colored trampolines, lax goals, etc. are allowed, but small, well-built treehouses and structures like this one are not.”

    It makes perfect sense. Trampolines and goals can be taken down, structures cannot. How does one not see the difference? Maybe your next-door neighbor genuinely loves your treehouse, but what about the folks they sell their home to next year?

    I don’t recall the city council blindly pointing to the statute. If memory serves, some selfish individuals actually brought it to a hearing, and it was discussed before being ruled upon. I can’t imagine a “pretty good chunk” of people think this issue needs to be revisited. It makes very, very little sense. Surely most people in UP do not want eyesore recreational structures built in front yards.

    And quit whining about trampolines. Trampolines and such are ugly enough, but they can be removed, and “two wrongs make a right” is not a good argument.

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  • April 8, 2011 at 8:47 pm
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    and by the way–

    Of course the property owner doesn’t want to go on record saying “no way.” She would immediately be labeled “anti family” by the same sorts of people whose heartstrings are tugged by the photo accompanying this post–tugged so far that they ignore what a silly, irresponsible thing this so-called “super dad” did. “No one’s using it, so we can just take, it, right?”

    As for kids playing outdoors, amen. Our community has the finest and most abundant park grounds per capita in Texas I’m sure. Not to mention our outstanding school facilities and sports programs, which are the envy of the southwest. And not to mention BACK YARDS. Whatever happened to back yards? Let me take a wild guess–“super dad” paved over his.

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  • April 9, 2011 at 9:08 am
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    Sorry, Merritt, but this one is a non-starter. “Super dad” decided to use someone else ‘s property for his own purposes without permission. Then, he wants to whine about having to disassemble it at the property owner’s request? There’s a great example for the kiddies! He’s lucky Ms. Oliver didn’t demolish it on the spot and charge him with trespassing. The city finally served a real purpose here, and the property owner does not deserve to be vilified. Move on!

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  • April 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm
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    Yeah, I agree with the majority that Merritt is on the wrong side of this debate, that the lot owner’s reaction is totally reasonable. That doesn’t make Mr. Green a bad guy, though, as many commenters seem to imply.

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  • April 9, 2011 at 1:48 pm
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    Why didn’t super dad put it in his own front yard?

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  • April 9, 2011 at 4:57 pm
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    As someone who lives on Purdue, let me chime in. While Mr. Green didn’t speak directly with Ms. Oliver, he did speak with one of her associates about the project and apparently felt good enough about his conversation that he proceeded with building the smash ball court.

    Ms. Oliver stated on Friday (after this post published) that she had no issue with the structure and whatever happened was between the Greens and the city. The lot has been vacant for almost a year and until Ms. Oliver decides to build on it, the neighborhood children have turned it into “Purdue Park”.

    The whole point of this post wasn’t to turn this into an issue with Mr. Green and Ms. Oliver. There is NO issue there. The point was – and is – that the city should be more concerned with crime and other important issues than this one. This a small structure on the back of a vacant lot that is barely visible from the street and is bringing a great deal of fun and joy to a lot of kids in the surrounding streets. Let’s stay focused…

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  • April 9, 2011 at 5:28 pm
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    @Cynthia, although I appreciate the joy it brings to the kiddies, the fun is at the expense of a property owner who didn’t invite it and would be held accountable if some kind of atrocity happened. I can assure you, the parents of a “wounded” kid would find the deepest and most pockets to sue. We’re asking the city to only enforce the codes we like and ignore the ones we don’t. I’ll try the “focus on the drug dealers” line with Pat next time we have a pow-wow over my alley trash cans being six inches over the easement line. I’m sure it works there, too.

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  • April 11, 2011 at 10:54 pm
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    Just let the kids play!! And kuddo’s for “Super Dad” dragging his kids outside to play and playing with them! All you cynical “bloggers” get outside and do something!!

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