Angelinos Sea Lodge, 103 29th St., Holmes Beach, has 30 days to remove a tree house or submit a modified design and location for the structure that was built on the beachfront without permits — or the state will remove it.
An Aug. 6 letter from James Martinello of the Florida Department of Environment Protection, the regulator of coastal construction, gives notice of the DEP findings to Angelinos owner, Richard Hazen, through his attorney, David Levin of Icard, Merrill, Cullis, Timm, Furen & Ginsburg, P.A., Sarasota.
Martinello wrote that the tree house “may not be exempt from the department’s permitting requirements.”
In addition to any required city building permits, the state requires permits for building seaward of the coastal construction control line to protect the coastal system from structures that can destabilize or destroy the beach and dune system.
According to Martinello, environmental manager of the DEP Division of Water Resource Management Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems, “resolution of this enforcement case needs to be completed as soon as possible.
“If Mr. Hazen chooses not to resolve the matter within the time frames provided, the department may take appropriate enforcement action,” including, Martinello wrote, “removal of the tree house structure seaward of the coastal construction control line.”
The August DEP letter follows a series of correspondence with Hazen’s attorney and engineer.
Levin contended in February that the structure constituted no measurable impact on the coastal system because the structure, but for the wooden pilings, was supported by an Australian pine tree.
In April, Martinello responded that the structure is supported by four 12-inch diameter wooden pilings with concrete-type foundations, and invited Levin to submit information from a professional engineer in support of the owner’s position.
Erickson Consulting Engineers Inc. of Sarasota, submitted a report for Hazen in June, stating two of the four pilings were decorative and could be removed. The report also stated the structure constituted a minor activity, exempt from the CCCL permit, because the beach and primary dune are seaward of the structure.
Erickson also reported no adverse or measurable interference to the coastal system will take place, adding the shoreline is planned for renourishment in 2014.
Martinello’s staff reviewed the Erickson engineering report and the case in general and stated the DEP had “significant concerns” about the partially enclosed design, the size of the pilings and concrete footings, as well as the structure’s proximity to the dunes.
The tree house construction first came to light in November 2011 after the city of Holmes Beach was alerted by an anonymous call.
In addition to referring the complaint to the DEP, the city advised Angeliono’s of its engineering and survey requirements if Hazen were to seek permitting from the DEP.
The city’s concerns over the construction relate to the building’s stability, safety and ability to withstand hurricane-force winds, according to David Forbes, city code enforcement officer.
According to building inspector Bob Shaffer, the city has not been contacted by Hazen or his engineers recently. The last contact was a general inquiry in December about city building requirements from professional engineer Charles Sego on behalf of Hazen.
Angelino’s Lodge includes four vacation rentals and, according to Hazen’s wife, Huong Lynn Tran, the tree house was built as a private place to read, write, relax and dine.
When asked for comment, Tran said she and her husband had just received the Aug. 6 letter, and that their attorney was reviewing it. She deferred further comment to Levin, who had not a returned call for comment by press time for The Islander.