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Clearfield officials 'debug' family's tree, remove VW Beetle

City says car in tree violated nuisance vehicle code

CLEARFIELD — Money may not grow on trees. But in the yard of one Clearfield home, a car could hang out in them — that is, until Tuesday, when a Volkswagen Beetle called "Lucy" was extracted from a tree in Janis Zettel's yard.

"I feel sad," Zettel said. "This has brought so much joy to everybody. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people have come by to look at her and take pictures of her and enjoy her."

Zettel's dilemma began in January, when Clearfield Police Department code enforcement informed her that the car would need to find a new perch.

The Beetle, which Zettel recently repainted to look like a ladybug, first landed on the tree in December — with a little help from a forklift.

Since then, the Zettels' yard has gained attention outside of its own neighborhood.

Nola Spicer, of Roy, read about the Zettels and said the story broke her heart and she decided to visit Lucy. Since then, she has returned six times. In the Zettels' yard, she said, she "saw things that my grandparents had used, and that my mother had used."

"A lot of the stuff in my yard has come from friends who know that I like this kind of stuff, so they bring it to me," Zettel said, motioning at the decor including a small vintage windmill, a collection of plates and a sign that reads "love."

As the vehicle was removed from the tree, a group of neighbors and well-wishers watched.

"I think they should leave it up for another year or something. I don't see where it's hurting anything. I don't think it's bothering anyone except maybe a couple neighbors. Everybody has their own opinion," said neighbor Erol Thomas.

Another neighbor and friend of the Zettels, Richard Thompson, agreed.

"We love it. We would say leave it there," he said.

Last month, Zettel said the officer who gave her the notice of violation informed her that the car needed to vacate its home within seven days.

She said then that she planned to petition and make her case in front of the Clearfield City Council because "it's not a vehicle anymore — there's no engine, there's nothing in it."

Though over 2,000 people signed Zettel's petition, her efforts were unsuccessful because the City Council "had their minds made up long before," she said.

The car violated the city's nuisance vehicle code regarding inoperable or unregistered vehicles or vehicle parts, said Trevor Cahoon, the city's public relations coordinator.

"We worked closely to come to this conclusion of helping her remove the car from the tree. We didn't go in there without her consent," he added.

Though the Zettels addressed the council, "the car had to be taken down out of the tree because it fell under the perview of that ordinance," said City Councilman Tim Roper.

"When we're there, they can bring comment to us, but we can't make any changes like that … All the City Council can do is change the ordinance, if we see fit. And none of us really saw fit to change the ordinance at the time," he said.

However, he added that the city did work with the Zettels to "come to a resolution on it."

Zettel agreed that she had a "nice chat" with City Council members about the car.

Though Lucy has descended from her tree-pedestal, her future is still as bright as her red paint.

"We're going to put her on our little trailer over there and make her permanent on it, and we'll take her around, let her visit places, go in parades, things like that, because she has become very famous," Zettel said.