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HB lodge seeks ‘after-the-fact’ exemption for tree hut

By Kathy Prucnell, Islander Reporter

An Austrailan pine tree with a diameter of 50 inches at chest height and 12-inch wide pilings resembling tree trunks, support the tree house on the beach at the Angelinos Sea Lodge, 103 29th St., Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

Referring to a tree hut on the beach as “minor activity” in a Feb. 10 letter to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, an attorney for Richard Hazen, owner of Angelinos Sea Lodge, 103 29th St., asks for an after-the-fact permit exemption for the tree house Hazen built without permits last year.

    In December, the DEP Division of Water Resource Management, Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems, advised Hazen to voluntarily remove the wood-frame deck structure and restore all affected dune areas within 30 days. The DEP warning letter advised after-the-fact permitting was unlikely.

    In the letter to Jim Martinello, DEP environmental manager, attorney David Levin asked the DEP to further explain its allegation of an “alteration of an existing dune system by creating cleared pathways and viewing areas,” and for the location and extent of dune alteration.

    As to the tree house, Levin states the state administrative code exempts from CCCL permitting, “minor activities which do not cause an adverse impact on the coastal system and do not cause a disturbance to any significant or primary dune.”

    He said the code defines adverse impact “as an impact to the coastal system that may cause a measurable interference with the natural functioning of the coastal system.”

    Levin said a a significant dune is one with height sufficient to offer the vegetative protection, and a primary dune is one with alongshore continuity to offer protection to uplands.

    “It would be impossible to show any measurable interference with the natural erosion,” Levin concluded, equating erosion with the “functioning of the coastal system.”

    He said the deck is supported by a large Australian pine tree, supplemented by four 12-inch diameter wood poles, “similar to those supporting other exempt structures, such as beach awnings and other shades, typically found along the beach.”

    The poles are located behind an existing seawall that was buried during a beach nourishment project, according to Levin. “Given the size and location” of the support poles, he said “it would be virtually impossible for such poles to have measurable impact” on the coastal system.

    “Clearly, if the sole support of the deck was the Australian pine,” Levin said, “there would be no question that the subject deck was exempt.”

    Levin concluded his Feb. 10 letter to Martinello by asking DEP to consider the elevated wood deck structure as an exempt minor activity, and suggested a meeting with Martinello Feb. 21 in Tallahassee.

    Following a complaint to Holmes Beach about the structure this fall, the city referred the matter to the DEP. The building official also advised Hazen that engineering plans and a survey would be required before it would consider a “letter of no objection,” which is typically required before DEP considers issuing a permit.

    In December, the city received an inquiry about the required plans by phone from Hazen’s engineer, Charles Sego of Anna Maria.

    The city’s concerns over the construction relate to building stability, safety and ability to withstand hurricane-force winds, according to David Forbes, code enforcement officer.

        Angelinos Lodge includes four vacation rentals, and, according to Hazen’s wife, Huong Lynn Tran, the tree hut was built as a place to read, write, relax and dine.

3 Responses to HB lodge seeks ‘after-the-fact’ exemption for tree hut

  1. Deborah says:

    Sadly, not shocking that even after the last article and my subsequent informed, passionate response in support of the Hazen’s tree hut, here we continue on. The DEP, commissioners, etc., etc., etc.???!!!! Really, how much bureaucracy does a property owner need to encounter after the “anonymous complaint?” Have you driven around the island, that beautiful island, and seen everything turning into brightly colored pastel monstrosities that do not fit into the island setting in the least. If AMI wants to keep that island “feel”, then the tree hut fits the bill in every way. It is tasteful and blends in aesthetically in a most delightful manner. I wish all the people who stopped and talked and took pics of the tree hut could return and share those conversations with the powers who be. Again, best wishes to the Hazens…this is harassment, pure and simple.

  2. Paul Grady says:

    Kudos to the person who raised the complaint and focused attention on this beach structure built without DEP permit. As a nearby resident who followed DEP procedures to repair our seawall, I can attest to the agency’s attention to FL environmental and safety issues on our beach. Without DOT fair oversight of public lands, we’d have hundreds of goofy, unsafe structures littering our dunes. Walk past that structure, it is an eyesore and unbelievable that a property owner would attempt to build it!

  3. Steve says:

    Where’s the unbiased reporting? No mention of the pertinent facts from your November article relating the details of how the Hazens sought a permit locally and were told repeatedly by local authorities that there were no permitting requirements for a tree house?

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