HOLMES BEACH — The double-decker tree house at Angelinos Sea Lodge remains in its beachfront perch, for now.
Despite worries that a hurricane would bring down the structure, the tree house suffered no damage from Hurricane Irma, according to owner Lynn Tran. The tree house has been a bone of contention for more than five years between city leaders and owners Tran and Richard Hazen. It is nestled in a large Australian pine tree located partially beyond the erosion control line seaward of the lodge. Built without permits due primarily to a communication error between Tran-Hazen and the city’s building department and not up to current building codes according to Holmes Beach Building Official Jim McGuinness, the location of the tree house left some wondering if it would weather the wrath of the storm.
“We are happy the tree house is still here, at least for a little while longer,” Tran said.
Prior to Hurricane Irma sweeping through the area Sept. 10, Tran said the lodge had several visitors taking what was thought could be the last photos of the tree house.
In preparation for the storm, Tran and Hazen boarded up windows, secured or removed outdoor furniture and tied down items too heavy to move, but that might fly away or cause damage in high winds. For the tree house, they removed the windows, secured the structure and removed anything that could fly away.
“We did what we can,” she said, adding that the tree house is a flow-through structure designed with hurricanes in mind. The round, two-story structure is attached to the Australian pine and its other support posts with hurricane-rated brackets. In her opinion, Tran said she feels the added support from the tree house might help to hold the tree it’s located in together during high wind events.
“That’s just my opinion,” she said, laughing.
Rather than evacuate, Tran and Hazen chose to stay at the property they’ve owned for the better part of two decades during the hurricane. Tran said she told her concerned mother that if the birds and the fish weren’t leaving the Island for the storm, neither was she.
“It was the loudest wind we’ve ever heard,” she said of the hurricane. Luckily, once the storm cleared, the tree house nor the lodge suffered any damage. Tran said two days later they were able to host a small wedding at the property.
“We’re lucky,” she said. “Overall, things turned out really well for us and the Island.”
Though the tree house survived the storm, its future still remains uncertain. Tran caved to a demand from the city to apply for a demolition permit for the structure, however she hopes to keep the tree house.
After losing a previous court appeal, Holmes Beach city leaders gave Tran and Hazen a deadline to file for the permit. With the deadline extended to Sept. 18 due to the hurricane, Tran filed the paperwork but hopes she’ll never have to use the permit.
Tran and Hazen are appealing the decision from the Florida Second District Court of Appeals, which favored the city’s position, with a petition for writ of certiorari to the U. S. Supreme Court. It a move they hope will end litigation and save the treehouse.
“We’re keeping it for as long as we can,” she said.