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Our View: Acton outlaw in the wrong

Posted: July 22, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 22, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Our local, modern-day outlaw is being sentenced today, but not for robbing a bank or cattle rustling or tying someone to the train tracks — he’s being charged with building-code violations.

No, it’s not very sexy, but a law is a law.

Alan “Kim” Fahey has made a national name for himself and for his tree-house-like creation known as “Phonehenge West,” which he built by hand over roughly 30 years on his Acton property — without securing proper permits
It’s a large, aesthetically artistic building, partly constructed with old telephone poles (hence the name), and it houses some of Fahey’s family and friends.

After years of pressure from the county to tear down Phonehenge West, and Fahey somewhat daring authorities to take action by making the seemingly commonplace issue a large, public spectacle, county officials finally had enough of it, and arrested Fahey on 12 misdemeanor building-code violations. They carry a maximum punishment of up to six years in jail.

While we don’t approve of any substantial jail time for an admittedly silly crime, the county is 100-percent justified in pursuing  Fahey, because the fact remains that the tree-house, Phonehenge, grown-up clubhouse, art exhibit — whatever you want to call it — was constructed without going through the proper channels, and its structural integrity has not been proven sound.

And when people live inside of it — as nine do — it puts lives at risk. And it’s the government’s responsibility to ensure the health and safety of everyone. So, when our SCV rebel consistently sidestepped and scoffed at the county construction laws, he gave them no choice but to tear down his labor of love.

Some argue that it’s his property, so he can do as he likes, and the county should just turn a blind eye. But the law is the law. And if the county backs down on Fahey’s creation, then it would lack any credibility to enforce, say, a second-story addition on a home.

Arbitrary enforcement deflates the purpose of the law, regardless of if you agree with it.

Instead of spending his time comparing the police and county officials to Nazi stormtroopers, Fahey should have been working the proper channels to simply secure the necessary permits or get the building codes changed to both give him his wanted legacy of someone who fought the law and won, and also make his beloved creation legal.

Working with the system yields much better results than working against it.

But the fact that some of Fahey’s family and friends reside in the tree-house, it’s just a tragic story and a lawsuit waiting to happen if we have a heavy storm or strong earthquake.

But since the Acton outlaw’s indiscretions are not worthy of incarceration, he deserves an alternative but fitting punishment.

We’re thinking about something like a zillion hours of community service of building homes for Habitat for Humanity. Or perhaps a lengthy stint working at the county permit office would do the trick.


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