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HB won’t budge on treehouse removal

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

Angelino’s Sea Lodge treehouse on the beach at 103 29th St., Holmes Beach. Islander File Photo

Lynn Tran addressed Holmes Beach commissioners April 23 in an attempt to open a dialogue over the city’s April 5 notice of violation issued for a treehouse built at her home and lodging facility, Angelino’s Sea Lodge, at 103 29th St., Holmes Beach.

The structure was built around an Australian pine tree, a tree considered to be an invasive species in Florida, and has two supporting 12-inch posts concreted into the ground in front and an additional 6-inch post in the rear.

Tran and co-owner Richard Hazen approached the city in 2011 about building the treehouse and were given an informal verbal approval from former building official Bob Schaffer.

Following a 2011 Islander report about the completed treehouse, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued a possible notice of violation due to the structure’s location seaward of the coastal construction control line.

DEP informed Tran and Hazen that if the city issued a letter of no objection, they could apply for an after-the-fact permit.

Tran said she has tried to schedule a meeting with building official Tom O’Brien to discuss the letter of no objection, but O’Brien said a meeting isn’t necessary.

“DEP has never said they would issue an after-the-fact permit,” said O’Brien. “They simply explained the process to them. They took it upon themselves to build a structure without a permit. It’s not my fault. I’m just the one with the unpleasant task of doing something about it.”

The city issued a notice of violation via email April 3 and followed it up with a certified letter dated April 5.

O’Brien said the matter now has to be addressed by the code enforcement board and, if the notice of violation stands, the city will begin fining Tran and Hazen $500 a day until the structure is removed.

Tran apologized for a recent bout of emails that were critical of the city in tone, but said, “I’d like to ask you for your time to review this. I don’t want to lose the treehouse and don’t want to pay the heavy fines moving forward.”

In a prepared statement to the city, Tran wrote the proposed fine is “harsh and unfair” and a “waste of both ours and the city’s resources and disputing issues that have been examined and evaluated by both legal and DEP for over a year.”

O’Brien said the city has continued attempts to communicate that DEP has not guaranteed issuance of an after-the-fact permit and, because of the location of the treehouse, it also would not qualify for a variance.

“And it’s a safety issue,” he said. “It’s not a kid’s treehouse. They basically have a four-unit resort and have the public use the treehouse, so that elevates the standards of public safety.”

O’Brien said the notice of violation would not be discussed.

“It needs to come down,” he said.

O’Brien provided an update to city commissioners at an April 25 work session. He said Tran and Hazen want the city to sign a letter saying they are not in violation of the 50-foot erosion control line setback requirements.

“We refused to author that letter,” said O’Brien. “I had to make a determination that yes, they are in violation.”

Commission Chair Jean Peelen said she didn’t understand why the issue was being “kicked back and forth between the state and the city.”

She wanted to know why DEP hasn’t handled the situation since the erosion control line is a state matter.

O’Brien said the issue isn’t going back and forth and that the city is handling it because the treehouse violates the land development code and because it was built without a city permit.

4 Responses to HB won’t budge on treehouse removal

  1. Deborah Willimet says:

    After all this time it is difficult to believe or comprehend that this is still an ongoing issue. The “treehouse” was approved; it is beautiful and aesthetically pleasing to everyone who passes by. This is a sad example of the infighting and “nit picking” that goes on in a beautiful place. It only darkens your reputation. It is in no way unsafe. There are much bigger and more real issues to address there in paradise.

  2. This tree house is a work of art.. It sits aback from the beach by quite some distance and it is built so well, it’s a marvel to the concept of tree houses – it looks amazing and it actually compliments the beach where it sits.. It has the ‘wow’ factor and it is a thing of beauty. Truly!

    What ever happened to the American ‘Free Spirit’ – ? This tree house is the stuff of dreams and if Mr Hazen is forced to ‘tear it down’ – shame on you Bradenton, this is not the type of thing this country was built on and it represents yet another mean spirited and pointless rule that is part of freedom erosion.

    Yes the structure needs to be safe – and it is, anyone who would care to inspect the tree house will plainly see that it upholds strict codes of safety and would win hands down against most Floridian homes – in fact, I would challenge the county to let it stand and see what a hurricane would do to it.. My bet is that many more homes would be destroyed while this tree house will stand – if it is permitted.

    It makes use of a beautiful, life-giving tree, it is green and built entirely from recycled materials, it uses no electricity, it emits no harmful gasses, it does not posses weapons or firearms, and it makes no noise.

    Do yourselves a favour Bradenton, and celebrate your people’s achievements rather than leave them feeling bitter and brow-beaten. Let the people see this magnificent piece of work and lets all get on with our lives.

  3. carolynobrien says:

    When someone falls on their head & breaks their neck (20 injuries per year in the USA in emergency rooms are fractures due to falling out of treehouses) who gets sued ?(and someone will) the person who built the treehouse? DEP for allowing it to sit on the beach? the city for allowing an unpermitted structure? guess what-your tax dollars will pay….owners were told in 2011 by the state to remove their “platform”.

  4. Pascal says:

    So we have to have insurance for every tree, hill or cliff now? This is a typical officious response – fear factor at work, breaking down the reasons why people need to celebrate people.. The ‘what if’ bull….!

    It’s nonsense – and in any case, the structure is SAFE! It would pass all the safety tests, in fact it’s so safe, I’d let my children stay in it..!

    Don’t be so PATHETIC – and work WITH this man, not against him!

    Surely if there are any risks, provisions can be made! BARRIERS can be built! SAFETY NETS can be installed – these things can be worked around and your feeble excuse is just that.

    Again – it’s all an attack on the heart and soul of freedom and individual expression! How utterly shameful of you to destroy this creative masterpiece!

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