— -- A Georgia man is fighting back against his local homeowners' association after the group allegedly demanded he take down a tree house he'd been building so that his grandkids would visit more often.
“My grandkids are precious cargo, and I love them to death, and I want them to want to come see Grandpa,” Mitch Howell told local ABC affiliate WSB-TV of Atlanta.
Shortly after Howell began construction on the tree house in January, a group claiming to be the local homeowners' association allegedly demanded he remove the tree house, according to Howell.
Howell told ABC News today that the group wants to fine him $25 for every day he does not take it down.
So, Howell said he filed a lawsuit on June 29 against the homeowners' association, which he claims didn't exist when he bought the house or when he began construction of the tree house.
"Mr. Howell wanted to have a place that will be a 'magnet' for his grandkids, a place where they will want to come visit him," Paul Andrew, Howell's attorney, told ABC News today. He added that it was Howell's desire for his grandkids to have a place to have fun without being tied down to technology, where they could enjoy the outdoors or play chess and checkers.
Howell, 61, added, "I purchased the property in 2012, and there was no homeowners' association on record with the Georgia Secretary of State, I specifically asked about that, and my closing attorney told me one did not exist."
Andrew told ABC News that the original "covenants" for the subdivision were recorded in 1984, and expired in 2004, but they did, however, permit "gazebos and other structures" around the lake.
Andrew also added that a homeowners' association was created, but it was dissolved by the Georgia Secretary of State in 1997. Andrew said that in 2007, "a person claiming to act for the non-existent HOA did file a second set of covenants," but "there is no evidence that any of the homeowners consented to the 2nd Covenants."
Howell said he got all of the permits and approvals he needed before he began construction on his own property, a Gwinnett County, Georgia, approved building site. He added that the tree house is being professionally built.
Howell said he was having the tree house built for his two grandkids, his grand-niece and his godson, who range in age from 3 to 11.
"I'm a retired Army officer, and discrimination is a big thing that I'm against," Howell added. "I served the country for decades to ensure that we had the privileges that we all deserve. This basically got started because of the inconsistent ways that this homeowners' association applies these covenants."
Jody Campbell, an attorney for the homeowners' association told ABC News today, "At this time the [Homeowners'] Association has not been served with that lawsuit and therefore we have no comment."