City to pursue tree house demolition in court

Tree house
City leaders are demanding removal of the two-story beachfront tree house. - Kristin Swain | Sun

HOLMES BEACH – The beachfront tree house in front of Angelinos Sea Lodge won’t stand much longer if city leaders have anything to say about it.

City commissioners voted unanimously to reject demands from the tree house owners that would allow them to retain the structure and to pursue a court order to have the two-story tree house taken down.

Treehouse owners Richard Hazen and Lynn Tran were given until Feb. 9 to apply for a demolition permit with the city. In the hopes of reaching an agreement with the city to end years of litigation and keep the tree house, Hazen and Tran instead submitted a letter of notice and demand refusing to file for a permit and asserting that the city has violated their rights by attempting to force them to remove the structure.

Their demands, with a deadline of April 11, require the city to revoke a 2013 code enforcement board decision requiring the tree house owners to either get a building permit for the structure, which was denied by the city, or remove it.

Building Official Jim McGuinness refused to issue an after-the-fact permit for the tree house stating that its supports need to be deeper in the sand, the structure is not ADA compliant and it’s located over the erosion control line where building is only allowed by city and Florida Department of Environmental Protection special permit.

They also demand the city reimburse the couple for $180,000 in monetary damages and allow the tree house to remain aloft in its Australian pine and wooden piling perch as “exempt from permit requirements.”

If these demands are not met, Hazen and Tran said in their letter that they would continue to pursue the case in court.

In late 2017, Tran and Hazen petitioned the U. S. Supreme Court to hear the case. On Jan. 8, that request was denied, and the city sent a letter demanding the owners remove the structure.

With commissioners agreeing to seek a court order to force the removal of the structure, it looks like the tree house case may be going back to court for a final determination.