Homeowner John Lepper Says Building Code Is On His Side, But Officials Maintain That 86-Square Foot Structure Is 'Not In Compliance'

BABYLON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It’s a tree house fight in the suburbs.

One family against their village.

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Is it unsafe and an eyesore, or is it great backyard fun for all the neighborhood kids?

Bayden and Brianna Lepper of Babylon Village are delighted by the backyard tree house that dad built. But since a photo of it was taken, the tree house has been off limits.

“I built a nice, safe outdoor playground for these kids and they’ve been ordered not to use it,” homeowner John Lepper told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan on Monday.

“It’s just a shame. Our kids are heartbroken, and so am I,” Noelle Lepper added.

A family is at odds with the Village of Babylon on Long Island over a tree house they put up on their own property. (Photo: CBS2)

The village said a permit and variance were needed. The Leppers submitted a survey and elevation drawings and maintain their 86-square foot tree house is legal.

“It says right there in the building code that a permit is not required for a structure under 90 square feet,” John Lepper said.

The building inspector cited the tree house as “not in compliance.” Summonses and fines were sent via registered mail. John Lepper said he has been ordered to pay $250, $500 and $1,000.

The village attorney and judge said they’ve fielded complaints, CBS2’s McLogan could find just one neighbor against the tree house.

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“I am not fond of the tree house. I think it is dangerous,” homeowner Toni Kinnear said.

Brianna and Bayden Lepper said they enjoy relaxing in the tree house and climbing the ladder.

“I am good at climbing. I’m an expert at it,” 6-year-old Bayden said.

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The Leppers added lights and doors, but the village said they have to make the structure legal or tear it down.

“If I felt I was breaking the law I would gladly take the tree house down and pay the fine,” said John Lepper, an FDNY firefighter.

He said he has had three court hearings already, each a waste of taxpayer dollars. Neighbors even showed up to support him.

“Now we are going to have to make it the ‘GFY’ chapel, the good for you chapel, and we’re going to go up there and we’re going to pray,” John Lepper said.

He said he plans to continue his fight Tuesday at the next court hearing. He will plead not guilty and appeal the ruling and the fines.

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John Tepper said he believes the village has more important issues to resolve. The village, however, said it’s not just about paying for permits; it’s about safety.