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Homeowner who built treehouse serves claim against Village of Babylon

The Village of Babylon has been battling since

The Village of Babylon has been battling since 2018 with John Lepper over the legality of a treehouse Lepper built in his backyard. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

A Babylon Village resident who built an 86-square-foot treehouse for his children has served a $2 million notice of claim against the village and its officials after a state appeals court judge dismissed code violations against him. 

In the notice of claim, John Lepper, who has been battling with village officials since spring of 2018 over a treehouse, said due to the “violation of civil rights and unlawful conduct” by village officials, he has suffered losses including loss of emotional integrity, loss of dignity, and the stigma of being labeled a criminal. 

“We’ve never asked for a dollar since this started,” Lepper said.

According to the notice of claim, Lepper said village officials defamed and intimidated him to limit the use of his property where the treehouse is located. Lepper said in the claim that Suffolk County police were called by officials seeking to have him arrested. 

The notice of claim comes after the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court handed down a Dec. 20 decision ruling that the village failed to establish that the tree house constituted a "building" within the meaning of its statute, thereby triggering a permit requirement. The claim was served by his Melville-based attorney Cory Morris on March 10.

Lepper also is suing the village and its officials in federal court over violating his First Amendment free speech rights.

Village attorney Gerard Glass, who is included in the notice of claim, said the December decision was based on a technicality. The appeals court decision came after a village court judge ruled against Lepper in 2018 

“The initial summonses were written on what looks like a traffic ticket,” Glass said. “The second round of summonses, after we realized this was going to be protracted, were written on what are called long form informations, where there is an extended description of the offense and what was done wrong. The village contends they have been suing for years and they’ve made no progress to legalize the treehouse.”

Both Lepper and the village agreed that while the case remains in federal court, no work will be done to the treehouse and no fines will be issued.

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