Insurance derails AD treehouse plan

A College-sponsored insurance policy has thwarted Alpha Delta fraternity’s attempt to build a 15-foot-high ‘treehouse’ on its property — a project that has received recent attention in regional papers.

The ‘treehouse,’ which has already been partially constructed, is a wood structure built on four 20-foot telephone poles that would have boasted a 120-square-foot common room, two loft-like bedrooms, and a 72-square-foot front deck, AD brother James King ’98 said.

Located behind the house in a cluster of trees near Ripley, Woodward and Smith halls, the ‘treehouse’ would have been insulated, heated, and provided with electricity and computer hook-ups, so two brothers could live in it year-round, King said.

King said he and AD brother Jonah Blumstein ’98 initiated the project this summer, after being denied College housing for Fall term, and enlisted the architectural aid of Matt Welander ’97.

Welander designed the “one-and-a-half story building,” King said, explaining that he and Blumstein served as laborers.

President of the Alpha Delta Corporation John Engelman ’68 said the project was halted once the fraternity found out the ‘treehouse’ would be uninsured under its present policy.

“The College negotiates the insurance policy, an umbrella policy, that covers all Greek organizations,” Engelman said.

“Once we were told that it would impact our insurance, there was no question that we had to abandon it [the treehouse],” he said, adding “no fraternity or sorority can exist without insurance.”

Currently covered up with a blue tarp, the raised building will “be taken down in a timely manner,” Engelman said.

King said he and Blumstein were disappointed and said that “it was actually going to be very nice.”

Describing the ‘treehouse’ as “a menace to take apart,” King explained the four poles were sunk five feet into the ground.

Jay Barrett, the Zoning and Codes Administrator in the town of Hanover said the fraternity brothers researched the project thoroughly.

They “did their homework very carefully,” he said. “They were two bright, articulate, nice, young guys. It was not an amateur job at all.”

Before the insurance company declared the project uninsurable, the College tried to block the construction by filing an appeal to the Zoning Board of the Town of Hanover.

Barrett explained “the College was maintaining that it was the principal structure on the lot, [but] the principal structure on the lot is the frat house.”

“Typically, the zoning ordinance only allows one principal structure per lot,” he said.

Labeling the ‘treehouse’ an accessory structure, Barrett issued the fraternity a zoning and use permit, he said. “The College chose to appeal that,” he added, explaining that the permit has a 15-day appeal period.

“My guess is that the College put pressure on the insurance company or that the insurance company read about it in the paper,” Barrett said.

While the College never officially stated why they appealed the measure, College spokesperson Nancy Serrell said “safety and security were the most important issues … those were going to be the grounds of the appeal.”

Barrett said safety was not really a problem because the ‘treehouse’ is “structurally incredibly sound and very well built.”

It would be “a lot less of a hazard than some of the fraternity decks around campus,” he added, noting it is no different to Theta Delta Chi fraternity’s open stairway that leads to an open deck.

The ‘treehouse’ plans included covered stairwells leading up to the common room, King said.

Alpha Delta President Jeff Woods ’97 said the fraternity was prepared to spend $10,000 on the project and had already spent $2,000 before construction was halted by the College’s appeal.

“We can probably get some of it back if we return some materials,” he said.

Woods said the project was supported by the house because it provided beds, brought in $2,200 more in revenue per term, and was felt to be a good investment in the physical property of the fraternity.

“It was just a little frustrating,” Woods said, “the College has done their part to stop” the project.

He emphasized the enthusiasm the two brothers had for the project and said “they are sort of worried because they are living in the house right now, but they don’t have housing.”

Engelman, who is also the fraternity’s advisor and an AD alumnus, said “the alumni corporation gave the go ahead for one reason only, to provide more bed space in a more comfortable fashion.”

“We made the mistake of not going further to the insurance underwriter ourselves,” he said.

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