Heads were shaking at Holmes Beach City Hall last week over reports of a nearly completed Robinson Crusoe-style tree house on the south part of Holmes Beach near Avenue E.
Bob Shaffer, city building inspector, explained that Richard Hazen, co-owner of Angelinos Sea Lodge, contacted him last spring, and asked whether the city had any permitting regulations for a tree house. Shaffer advised of no such regulations, but stated Nov. 17 it “was not supposed to be there to the extent he built this thing.”
“I didn’t expect this to happen,” said Lynn Hazen of the now developing controversy around the hut. “It was just built for the private use of guests and my own use.” The lodge includes four vacation rentals, and Lynn Hazen expects it to be used as a private place to read, write, relax and dine.
The idea of the tree hut came from her research into the Tahitian and Swiss Family Robinson tree-house concepts, she explained. A builder then assisted her with the project, which, she noted, is 95 percent done.
No plans or drawings were presented to the city of Holmes Beach.
Lynn Hazen recounted her research into the possible need for a permit: Her husband had contacted the city and was told “there are no written rules regarding tree houses.” She said they also spoke to Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino, as well as other officials, trying to make sure they got whatever permit they needed.
Last week, after an anonymous call to the city of Holmes Beach, David Forbes, city code enforcement officer, contacted Steve West of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems. The local bureau in Sarasota regulates construction on the beach.
Whether permitting will be required for the tree hut will depend on West’s recommendation, according to Forbes and Shaffer.
West said Nov. 18 he had received the city’s messages, and would likely be out this week for a look. “If it is made of wood, glass and is two stories, it probably should’ve been regulated.”
According to Forbes and Shaffer, proper zoning and building permits are required for “accessory structures,” which the tree hut may be.
The city concerns over the construction relate to the building’s stability, safety and ability to withstand the hurricane-force winds of the coastal area, and West added another — possible damage to dune vegetation.