Treehouse case goes back to court

The tree house still stands beachside in Holmes Beach. - Kristin Swain | Sun

HOLMES BEACH – Treehouse owners Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen will be kicking off the new year in Manatee County Circuit Court as they try to save their beloved two-story treehouse from the wrecking ball.

Tran and Hazen filed for a temporary injunction Dec. 10 asking the court to prevent the city of Holmes Beach or the Florida Department of Environmental Protection from forcibly removing their treehouse from its Australian pine perch in front of their Angelinos Sea Lodge. In a summons received at Holmes Beach City Hall, the couple cited irreparable harm and loss of property value as reasons to allow the treehouse to remain, saying that if the treehouse was torn down there’s no way they could ever rebuild it and there would be damage to the large pine tree or the tree would potentially be taken down with the treehouse. They also asked for relief from the more than $65,000 in fines, growing at a rate of $50 a day for every day the treehouse remains aloft, attributed to the code enforcement violation by the city.

The treehouse was built without a permit more than six years ago. Tran and Hazen say that they went to city hall to inquire about a permit and were told they didn’t need one for a treehouse. They built the two-story structure partially in a large Australian pine that sits on the erosion control line and partially supported by telephone pole-like structures that are disguised to look like trees. When the construction was brought to city leaders’ attention in 2012 it sparked a case that has been ongoing for six years with no end in sight. For their part, city leaders are committed to seeing the treehouse come down and are seeking restitution for the $151,135 spent in court costs and attorney’s fees in the case.

The couple states in the summons that they spent $28,000 to build the treehouse and another $180,000 defending it since 2012. They also say they have a petition signed by approximately 5,000 people asking for the treehouse to remain as-is.

City leaders have 20 days from the Dec. 12 delivery date of the summons to file a written statement to be considered by the court.

The treehouse case goes back before Circuit Court Judge Lon Arend at 10 a.m. Jan. 8 where the judge will hear a motion for entry of default filed by the city’s attorney Jim Dye.

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