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Originally published Saturday, June 14, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Editorial

Encourage lofty living

TREEHOUSES, designed not for children or the odd hobbyist but for elegant, lofty living, is an idea worth exploring by the Metropolitan...

TREEHOUSES, designed not for children or the odd hobbyist but for elegant, lofty living, is an idea worth exploring by the Metropolitan King County Council.

Republican Kathy Lambert, of Redmond, is pushing for broader, more-flexible policies governing dwellings in trees and the uses rural land can be put to. On the former, she should have the support of her colleagues on the County Council.

This issue goes beyond Issaquah residents Peter and Judy Nelson and their well-appointed treehouse built around a towering spruce on a 4-acre property next to the Raging River. County code-enforcement officers ought to work with the Nelsons to bring them into compliance with county permit laws.

This page does not envision rickety structures such as the one hanging precipitously beneath the I-5 Ship Canal Bridge and recently forced down by the city of Seattle. Treehouses may not be appropriate for downtown Seattle but they may have a function in eastern King County.

Innovation ought not be stifled. Creative minds should consider that rural economic development may translate into something different. A treehouse may be a primary residence; it may also be a small business such as a retreat or a bed-and-breakfast. Safety and ingenuity ought to be able to coexist.

The Nelsons' treehouse is an elegant red-cedar studio with a deck and incinerating toilet. Peter Nelson, working on his fifth book, wants to teach treehouse-building workshops and hold meditation events on the property.

The county ought to be more encouraging. Move beyond a single tree to the forest of issues ripe for policy discussion. Is treehouse living the next new green — and comparatively affordable — thing? No one will know until it is explored.

Can treehouses exist as friendly neighbors? The Nelsons' dwelling is not visible from the road. It is adjacent to open space.

Nonetheless, attention from policymakers could help determine if more is needed to protect neighbors and the environment. Experimenting with treehouses is no different from land-use policies changed to accommodate mother-in-law and garage apartments, cottages and town homes built on postage-stamp-size lots.

Councilmember Larry Gossett, a Seattle Democrat and chair of the Growth Management and Natural Resources Committee, has the opportunity to offer an inclusive view of rural economic development and lifestyles by merely exploring a code change for treehouses.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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