It’s a cherished place where many young people go to hang out with friends, see the world from a different perspective and just be a kid.
It’s a tree fort, similar to those commonly seen in the backyards and nearby woods on residential property all over America.
That is why Burgess Mike Bronko thought he was doing the right thing when he built one for his nephew, Zac, whom the Bronkos recently adopted. It was a present for Zac's 11th birthday.
"He's never asked us for anything, but he wanted this tree fort in the worst way," said Bronko, a former mayor of Naugatuck between 2007 and 2009 and a builder by trade who lives on Fairfield Court on the borough's west side.
Now Bronko is fighting to keep what has become known as “fort Bronko” after a neighbor, with whom the Bronkos have had a longstanding feud, complained about the structure. The borough’s zoning enforcement officer told Bronko to remove the tree fort because he didn’t have a permit.
The town’s Zoning Commission agreed with ZEO Steve Macary’s decision. There are no zoning regulations specifically regarding tree forts, and Bronko said borough officials told him that he didn’t need a permit.
Bronko says he just doesn't want to let down the boy he calls "son."
"He's brokenhearted to think that his birthday present, his tree fort that was all he wanted, might have to be taken down," Bronko said. "...He really doesn't understand this, and it's really tearing us apart to even have to think about these things. But, unfortunately, that is the reality of things."
Bronko hopes the reality changes.
On Tuesday, in between interviews with local and regional TV news stations over the flap (see a story from Fox CT, CT Now, here), he applied to have his case heard by the Zoning Board of Appeals.
"We're going to fight this all the way through and see where it takes us," he said.
Macary has been ill and left work early Tuesday; therefore, he could not be reached for comment. Mayor Bob Mezzo said that as a rule, the borough does not get involved with land use matters, particularly those between private citizens.
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