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Iraqi War Veteran, Mark Grapin, Can Keep His Tree House

6:10 PM, Nov 30, 2011   |    comments
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FALLS CHURCH, Va. (WUSA) -- Mark Grapin promised his two sons he would build a tree house when he returned from Iraq. After it was built, a battle with the county began.

Grapin said he unknowingly broke county code regulations by building it in the side yard, and feared he would have to take it down.

On Wednesday, he appeared once again in front of the Fairfax County Zoning Board and appealed. He won, but there are some stipulations.

It has to come down in five years.

"Obviously we have to keep the tree house in good order," he said, "the shrubbery and plants have to be maintained."

Grapin said a neighbor volunteered to help plant evergreens around the tree house.

"He brought a crew out and they planted these. He was able to tap the generosity of Merrifield Gardens. They were very generous," Grapin said.

The trees were donated and planted for free. One of the trees still had a $249 price tag attached.

Grapin also got help from people around the world. More than 1,500 of them filled out petitions on Change.org. That petition was started by another member of the military in Oregon.

Neighbors also visited Grapin to sign petitions in person.

Grapin said others with the law firm Reed Smith took on the board for free.

"Had we not had this pro-bono offer, the tree house probably wouldn't be standing behind me," Grapin said.

When 9 NEWS NOW reporter Lindsey Mastis asked chairman John Ribble, "Why the change of heart," he said in part: "I just thought that the findings of fact were presented in a better way maybe."

The Grapin family is pleased-- especially Sean, 9, and Eric, 11.

"I was super relieved that the tree house got saved," said Sean.

"Thank you for the support," said Eric.

They plan to have a party to celebrate.

"You're all welcome to come and take a trip down the slide," Grapin said.

Grapin said his boys will probably outgrow the tree house in five years. But if that's not the case, he may have to apply for an extension to keep it.

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