NORTHPORT — The Shores Homeowners Association (HOA) and Leelanau Township have filed a court order to have a tree house torn down because its owner allegedly violated a settlement agreement inked earlier this year.
Bill Wizinsky, who owns a lot on Foxview Drive in The Shores subdivision, settled with the association and the township in March regarding a dispute over a tree house that has fallen into disrepair on the property.
The motion, filed in 13th Circuit Court earlier this month, claims that Wizinsky is not complying with the agreement he and his wife, Ann Wizinsky, signed.
The Leelanau Township Board will discuss the order at its meeting at 7 p.m. today. Township Supervisor Doug Scripps declined to comment on the case.
The settlement agreement stipulates that if the Wizinskys violate the agreement the HOA and township can ask the court to enter a judgement against them. If the court agrees there has been a violation, the tree house will be torn down in 90 days from the date the order is entered.
“We are asking the court to enter it pursuant to the terms of the settlement,” said Karrie Zeits, who is representing the HOA.
The order claims Wizinksky violated the settlement by removing trees and by sending out emails to multiple people alleging discrimination by the township and the HOA.
Wizinsky denies violating the agreement and said the HOA and township are harassing him, spying on him and trying to force him off his property.
“This craziness has to stop, but never will because these people are crazy,” Wizinsky said.
Wizinsky, of Novi, built his tree house in The Shores nearly 30 years ago. The Shores is located on the western side of the tip of the Leelanau peninsula.
The 20-foot by 11-foot house is built on a system of columns and beams that elevates it about 10 feet into the air, where it once nestled among several trees.
“I was ahead of the tiny house movement,” Wizinsky said.
The house has no sewer and no well, relying instead on a chemical toilet and a water tank set-up Wizinsky installed. He said the tree house originally was approved by The Shores Homeowners Association developer, Leelanau Township zoners and the Leelanau County building department and he was given a permit to build.
Wizinsky, an architect and contractor, built the tree house as a secondary structure and planned to build a main house on the property.
“The reality is things don’t always go the way you plan,” he said.
In 2015 a storm blew down several trees around the tree house, with five of them falling onto the house and doing severe damage. Wizinsky said he did some of the repairs in 2015 until he was “red-flagged” and told to stop.
Leelanau County Construction Code in August 2015 issued a notice of violation to Wizinsky, claiming he had failed to obtain a permit for an expanded structure, according to Seth Koches, township attorney. In September the county issued a stop work order, Koches said.
Wizinsky said the work included moving an external stairway and enclosing it. He said he applied for a permit three different times with the county, but it was never processed.
In December 2017, Wizinsky filed a claim with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, claiming the township and county were discriminating against him because he and his wife adopted a child who was part African American.
The state dismissed the claim in April 2018 for insufficient evidence, according to court documents, but Wizinsky said the state at that time issued him a building permit to work on the tree house as part of a settlement in the case.
By then the house had seen three winters and was in very bad shape, he said. He claims he spent $35,000 to repair the house.
Soon after, The Shores HOA filed a four-count complaint against Wizinsky alleging the house, which they say is a utility structure and not a dwelling, and violates restrictive covenants of the HOA and township zoning laws.
The township is a co-defendant only on that count, Koches said.
The HOA also charged that Wizinksy libeled the HOA by maliciously publishing false and libelous information about the association and its members.
That case was settled in March, with Wizinsky agreeing to put his property up for sale. If the property is not sold by Sept. 30, 2021, the structure will be removed and returned to its natural state, according to that agreement.
The Wizinskys can “dwell on the property for no more than 18 nights per year,” from Memorial Day until Oct. 31 and must notify Steve Patmore, the township zoning administrator, three days before any night’s stay, the agreement states.
Another stipulation says that Wizinsky cannot remove any trees without approval of the HOA and must not file any new claims or seek any new investigation for anything that took place before the settlement.