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DEP: Remove or modify tree house

By Kathy Prucnell, Islander Reporter

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has threatened to remove the tree house at Angelinos Sea Lodge, 103 29th St., Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

Supported by four 12-inch diameter wood pilings and a concrete foundation, this tree house on the beach at Angelinos Sea Lodge, 103 29th St., Holmes Beach, was built without permits. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

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.

6 Responses to DEP: Remove or modify tree house

  1. Thompson says:

    i am amazed that through one anonymous (gutless) caller all of this has occurred.. over the last 20 years we have visited the island and have always notice Mr. Hazen’s attention to detail. last November we watched the care and attention Mr, Hazen’ was giving his new construction. I think it looks fabulous in keeping with the old Floridian style. How to do you know that the anonymous caller isn’t just jealous to death that they did not or do not have the creative mindset to do something similar. I have watched this procedure from afar the u.k. And I am astounded that you choose to back up a faceless, gutless person against the Hazen’s.

  2. Jim S. says:

    Finally something gets built on our island that isn’t hulking, atrocious, and utterly out of place, so of course the village idiots in charge must tear it down. If only Shawn Kaleta had built it, they’d be popping up like mushrooms all over the island.

  3. Deborah Willimet says:

    This entire situation is absurd. I have visited Holmes Beach sine 1989. When my daughter and I saw the tree house, we were so impressed with how it blends into the surrounding area. The concept is brilliant. So many people were looking at it, taking pictures, and remarking how amazing it would be to go in and relax, etc. It truly is paradise on AMI and the infighting and backstabbing detract from the beauty. There are many more important issues to address. On my last visit, I stopped and told the owners how beautiful the tree house looked and how so many visitors loved it! All of this over an anonymous call…really, you should be ashamed to waste all this time and money over something that only affects people is a positive light.

  4. Denise says:

    I have been a big fan of Angelino’s for years. This tree house is an outstanding addition and solidly built. I can’t imagine the owners would have gone to the expense and effort if they had not been approved by the county and DEP. Those people need to stop and move on to keeping out the construction of yet another ugly concrete building. The treehouse is perfect.

  5. Barb Hook says:

    We love the tree house.Don’t you people have something else to do besides worry about a little thing like this?? It has been there all this time,come on! As for the person who did the reporting,SHAME on you,JEALOUS!!!!

  6. juanita childress says:

    The law is the law..take it down.

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