Treehouse in sky is this man's castle
By Burr Van Atta Inquirer Staff Writer
Friday, July 30,1976 Inquire Editorial Cartoon
When Jonathan W. Selby built his treehouse, he built it to satisfy the longing in every youngster's heart for a secret place, a retreat high above parents and adults, houses, telephone poles and chores. He succeeded. The eye of every youngster in the neighborhood is on the treehouse that soars above the Selby's treehouse home at 34 Towamencin Ave. in Hatield Borough, Montgomery County.
Children frequently drop by and offer to cut the grass or "help out" with chores. But their eyes are on the treehouse 40 feet above their heads. Others eyes are on the treehouse too- Borough officials have ordered it torn down.
It turns out that Selby did not get a building permit for the structure. Not that the borough issues building permits for treehouses. It doesn't. But if he had applied for a permit, according to Borough Solicitor John Knox, he would have been told that the treehouse "is illegal as a structure" because no structure more than 40 feet high is permitted in the community of 2,385. The treehouse is more than 40 feet above the ground, Selby admits. But the agrees that the prohibition in the zoning code pertains to construction of buildings with height measured from the ground. Selby's treehouse is only 6 feet, 3 inches in height, he says. The rest of it's altitude is in the maple that supports it. And Selby points out that he did not build the tree. "It's the same thing as if I'd built it on a hill," Selby argues.But that's not the only point of contention. There is also the matter of borough electric lines that run nearby. "The structure is 10 feet away from the lines, and 10 feet above them," said Knox. "The structure is not sturdy and a storm or high wind could come down on the lines, affecting the safety and welfare of a substantial portion of the community."That, he says, is why he notified Selby in a letter June 7 that he had 15 days to tear down the treehouse or face prosecution. Selby, who at 29 admits to being a bit of a rebel, has not torn it down. Instead, he has asked Borough Council to hear his side of the story.
But in his last attempt, he says, he was told by Council President Gordon Grubb "not to bother-just go out and take the thing down."Somehow," Selby said, "that's not right". I think they should at least listen to my side. That's all I want
them to do."There are others in Hatfield who have no interest at all in what Selby, a resident of two months, might say.
"Burn the damn thing down," one shouted from a passing car as Selby talked to a reporter. "Burn it down or we will."
Selby ignored the shout, but his wife didn't. She reacted with concern, holding her daughters, 1 1/2 and 3, close to her side.
Jonathan tries to Join the planet...
Jonathan in the News
Ten years later Jonathan tries again to help others as well enjoy freedom in America,
New Family Ministries faces zoning
SUNDAY INTELLIGENCER /MONTGOMERY COUNTY RECORD August 24,1986
The administrator of New Family Ministries in Bedminster Township has until Tuesday to file an appeal of a cease-and desist order or face possible zoning violation charges by the township,the local zoning officer said. Jonathan W. Selby, administrator of New Family Ministries, what he terms a "nonprofit, nondenominational ... Christian corporation," requested and was given a week more than the original time limit to appeal the township order, said Weldon C. Harris, Bedminster zoning officer. If Selby does not file his appeal, along with a $500 fee required for a zoning hearing board review, then Bedminster probably will charge Selby with violating township land-use laws, Harris said. Even if Selby does not appeal the cease-and-desist order, Harris said, township officials will have to investigate further before charging him with any violations. Bedminster supervisor Barbara A. Thomas said the supervisors on Aug. 15 authorized solicitor Mary C. Eberle to cite Selby for zoning violations if he does not file an appeal.
The 71-acre former day camp on Route 611 is zoned for houses on lots of a minimum of two acres, Mrs. Thomas said. Starting in June Selby took deposits on "homesteading" lots on the parcel he said he has purchased. The property, straddling Tohickon Creek, lies in both Bedminster and Tinicum townships. Selby hoped to sell lots, some as small as one-quarter acre, to people who otherwise would not be able to afford land on which to build a house.
Selby says he is a Christian who has "had a great burden all along for
the needs of people." He also planned to provide low-cost housing for homeless
people and to meet a host of other human needs. Bedminster and Tinicum officials
took a dim view of Selby's plans, since he had not applied for permits for any
of his projects. On July 11,Bedminster officials mailed a cease-and-desist order
prohibiting Selby from selling any more land until he has township approval.
On Aug. 14,
Bedminster police, assisted by Tinicum officers,executed a search warrant, obtained that day after an earlier visit during which they arrested an (unrelated) burglary suspect on the property- Using the search warrant, police seized New Family Ministry records. Officers also searched several buildings being used as residences and found at least one item of suspected drug paraphernalia, Bedminster police said. Harris said he met Tuesday with Selby to discuss "the mechanics of the appeal procedure."Harris said only the two stone buildings on the New Family property are to be occupied now. All tents must be removal, and all remodeling of existing structures must cease. Selby denies he has sold any property since July, the day he received the cease-and-desist order, adding, "We have turned down an awful lot of people" since then. He still contends he does not need subdivision approval to run his homesteading plan. Selby said he also would comply with a township order to stop renting rooms to people.A woman who identified herself as living on the New Family property with her husband and two children told a reporter by phone that Selby had given all tenants three-days' notice to vacate on Thursday. "He expects us to be out of here because he didn't do what he was supposed to do," she said. "It's reflecting on us now." The woman, who asked that her name not be used, said there were 15 adults and eight children living in rooms at New Family. As well as a family and a single man living in tents. Selby lives in a stone house on the land. Bedminster officials have said the house still is habitable under the township order.
One more time the government forces Jonathan out...
Jonathan Selby ponders this week where his family will live as his children, Obadiah, 5, Christiana 1 1/2, and Abigail 3, eat lunch in their camper
Homeless after fire,family fears separation
A Greencastle man has been warned his children will be put into foster care if he tries to return them to a fire damaged home in the next 10 days. Jonathan Selby, his wife and their four children were living at 12925 Ridge Road until a Dec. 1 chimney fire. The home was ruled unsafe by state police Fire Marshal Skip Sydnor because of faulty electrical wiring. The frame house is owned by Fred and Olivia Hater, 6452 Guitner Road, Greencastle. Concerned that Selby intended to return to the home, Sydnor sought a warning. In a Dec. 8 letter to Selby from Franklin County Children and Youth Service, Selby was warned that if his children are found in or around the home, the service could place the children in foster care.
The next week and a half is at issue, because Selby won't have access to the home after then, anyway. His landlord has evicted him effective Dec. 26. Selby and his family now live in a small camper. Mohler Hardwoods and Woodworks, 876 McDowell Road, Green- castle, is allowing the family to live on its land.
"I had a beautiful relation- ship with them (the Hafers) for a year and a half," Selby said. "We had what should have been considered a relatively minor incident of a chimney fire." In a Dec. 10 letter, the Hafers told Selby to remove all his possessions from the home by Dec. 26 "because of the unsafe wiring and condition of the house." "He's putting current through the wire that's double what the wire should hold," Sydnor said. "He was supposed to be staying in the camper - they (the Hafers) didn't even know the electricity had been hooked up to the house," Sadnor said Selby, 52; his wife, Maria, 33; and their four children - Jedidiah, 9; Obadiah, 5; Abigail, 3; and Christiana, 18 months - moved to Greencastle from Tennessee about a year and a half ago. Fred Hafer, reached at his home on Tuesday, was asked why he was evicting Selby."That happens to be my business and not yours," he said.
NOTE Not part of article:(Arrangements were underway to bring the house up to code before the Selby family would return to it, however due to the pressure put on the owners by the authorities, the owners chose just to resolve the problem by threatening to evict the Selbys, to which the Selby's conceded).
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