Share story

CLEARFIELD, Utah (AP) — A Utah grandmother who decorated her yard with a painted Volkswagen Beetle up in a tree is fighting back after the city ordered her to take it down.

Janis Zettel, of Clearfield, bolted the gutted car into the branches of a tree in her yard. She and her husband, Roy, stripped the vehicle so that it wouldn’t weigh any more than the treehouse it would be replacing. After that, they sealed it up so that no one would be able to get into it, painted it like a ladybug, lifted it with the assistance of a neighbor’s forklift, and bolted it into place.

“It’s not a vehicle anymore — there’s no engine, there’s nothing in it,” Zettel said.

But authorities handed the 64-year-old woman a “nuisance vehicle” ordinance citation and an order to take it down.

“It was just my creative mind,” Zettel said. “I’ve seen pictures of them hanging from trees like a swing, so I decided to put one up in a tree instead. I’m artsy and folksy and hippie — very eclectic.”

Zettel said her neighbors have been supportive, but Clearfield Assistant Chief of Police Kelly Bennett said “a civilian-generated complaint” led to an ordinance enforcement investigation.

By the letter of the law, the Beetle is no different than a junker up on blocks in someone’s yard, Bennett said,

The car went up Dec. 21, and code enforcement officers came out to take a look on Jan. 3, in part to determine if it posed a safety hazard.

A city-contracted arborist also inspected the installation. While Zettel said the arborist told her that all seemed secure, Bennett said, “The arborist is there to determine the condition of the tree — they can’t speak to the structural integrity.”

Zettel launched a petition online asking people to support her effort to keep the decorative yard ornament, which as of Wednesday afternoon had garnered more than 800 signatures. She appealed to the Clearfield City Council during its meeting last week.

A decision was ultimately made to discuss the matter further in a future work session. Trevor Cahoon, a city spokesman, said the council plans to discuss the ordinance in question on Tuesday.

So for now, Zettel gets a reprieve.