Resident Mitchell Howell is suing the homeowner's association at Snellville's Lochwolde subdivision for the right to build his kids a treehouse. TYLER ESTEP / TYLER.ESTEP@COXINC.COM

Gwinnett man suing HOA for right to build grandkids a treehouse

Mitchell Howell wants his grandkids and godsons to have a backyard treehouse. They're 3, 8, 9 and 11, and it seems like the kind of thing they'd like. 

He started building it last year, and what's there is pretty standard (ladder, platform, walls, roof), but pretty big.

"It's more than a pallet nailed to a tree, for sure," Paul Andrew, Howell's attorney, said.

Howell needs an attorney because he lives in Lochwolde, a leafy lakeside subdivision off Snellville's Centerville-Rosebud Road, and the homeowner's association doesn't want him to have a treehouse at all — so he's taking them to court. 

Last month, Howell and Andrew filed against the Lochwolde HOA in Gwinnett County Superior Court. The treehouse's history goes like this, according to the suit:

It gets more convoluted, legally speaking, from there. 

The lawsuit claims (and Secretary of State records confirm) that Lochwolde Homeowner's Association, Inc., was registered with the state in 1988 — then dissolved in 1997. A new corporation was not registered until this past April.

In the intervening years, a Lochwolde resident purporting to be the president of the HOA created new bylaws and covenants for the subdivision — codes that are being applied in the denial of Howell's treehouse. But, the lawsuit argues, because the HOA didn't technically exist when those covenants were recorded, the rules can't be used to govern Howell's property.

"We don't think they have the authority to enforce the covenant," Andrew said.

Multiple attempts to contact the attorney representing the homeowner's association were unsuccessful. 

The suit asks the court to stop the Lochwolde HOA from enforcing any covenants on Howell's property and force them to approve the treehouse's completion. It also asks for the HOA to cover Howell's attorneys fees. 

"There's not a concrete timeframe right now," Andrew said.

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