A family living on Helmsley Drive was confounded recently to be cited for a violation of the Sandy Springs zoning ordinance over a swing set with two slides and a climbing wall and a plastic play house installed for a 4-year-old boy.

Two of the family’s neighbors complained to the city about the structures, triggering a code enforcement inspection of their property.

One of the complaining neighbors called the play place an eyesore. The other neighbor did not return phone calls.

The homeowner, Douglas Krevolin, asked the City Council to amend its zoning ordinance during a Feb. 2 meeting. The ordinance requires a 35-foot backyard setback, meaning the structure of a house can’t be built in that part of the yard.

The ordinance grants exceptions for decks and swimming pools. In an apparent loophole, however, exceptions aren’t granted for swing sets.

“If we were to plant a garden within 35 feet of our rear property line and were to use a wooden dowel to hold up a plant, that wooden dowel would be a structure based on the current definition,” said Krevolin, who is a lawyer. “We don’t believe it is the intent of the city to so severely restrict the use of property as to prohibit swing sets or gardens.”

Mayor Eva Galambos said council members were “all confounded.”

Dist. 2 Councilwoman Dianne Fries said: “I’m sorry these people have nothing better to do than complain over your swing set and your children. That’s embarrassing.”

Dist. 5 Councilman Tibby DeJulio demonstrated some caution in asking: “Is this a swing set, or is this Six Flags?”

The council asked city staff to draft changes to the zoning ordinance necessary to ensure the incident doesn’t recur. Two days later, Community Development Director Nancy Leathers sent Krevolin a letter rescinding the notice of violation.

“We actually encouraged this discussion because it’s been a problem for us, and we’d like to deal with it,” Leathers said. “But it does have to go through the normal zoning amendment process.”

— Gerhard Schneibel