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Tentative code hearing set on HB treehouse HB prepares to hear alleged treehouse violations

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

The owners of Angelinos Sea Lodge, 2818 Ave. E., Holmes Beach, have been cited by Holmes Beach for building a treehouse outside the setbacks and for destroying a dune. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

The beach fronting the treehouse at Angelinos Sea Lodge in Holmes Beach includes a large swath of sea oats and a dune in January 2012. Islander File Photo

A January 2013 photo of the treehouse, also taken from the beach, shows posts, a rope border and a new landscaped area of plants where the dune and sea oats formerly were pictured. Islander File Photo.

Richard Hazen and Linda Tran, owners of Angelinos Sea Lodge, 2818 Ave. E., Holmes Beach, have been cited by the city for violating the setback and removal of sea dunes with the construction of a treehouse, according to code enforcement officer David Forbes.

Forbes said the citations came from building official Tom O’Brien, who inspected the property and provided Forbes the list of violations.

Additionally, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection claims the owners may have built the treehouse seaward of the coastal construction control line without a DEP permit.

The DEP required the treehouse owners obtain a letter of no objection from the city, and the city notified the owners that in order to obtain such a letter, they would first need to provide engineering and a site plan for review.

Tran and Hazen have retained attorney David Levin with the law firm of Icard, Merrill, Cullis, Timm, Furen & Ginsburg, P.A., of Sarasota, to help with the DEP permit. She said the DEP only requires a letter that the treehouse is not within the city’s setback limit and it will provide an after-the-fact permit.

Tran and Hazen have been at odds with the city since November 2011, when the city issued them a citation for building the treehouse without a permit.

Tran said she thought that issue was settled.

“Now, all we can do is address each issue one at a time. I have not received a notice of a code board meeting, however,” she said.

When she does, she’ll pass that on to Levin. Tran said the situation is confusing, and she was unsure if Levin would represent them at the code board meeting.

“We just want to keep the treehouse and do the right thing. We are a small mom-and-pop resort and I just want to go back to living peacefully on the beach in Holmes Beach,” she said by phone while she traveled with her husband.

But Angelinos and the treehouse are no longer a small story of a code violation.

Bay area media, including television and cable networks, have picked up the story, which has helped draw attention from around the world.

A television station in Australia contacted The Islander asking how to reach Tran and Hazen for an interview on a morning show.

Tran said the station reached her and she did a phone interview, and a European television station also has been trying to reach her for an interview.

Originally from Romania, Tran lived in Russia before moving to the United States. She said she wouldn’t be surprised to hear from Russian and Romanian television stations.

“I guess I can no longer be just the owner of a small mom-and-pop resort,” Tran said.

At Holmes Beach City Hall, staff members said the code board hearing is tentative due to a board vacancy. The seat must be filled by the mayor prior to June 20 to ensure a quorum or the hearing would be postponed 30 days.

A hearing before the city code enforcement board is tentatively scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday, June 20, at the Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

But Tran said she has yet to be formally notified of any code enforcement board hearing, and she and her husband are dealing with the alleged violations “one at a time.”

The owners said they received a letter from Forbes listing the alleged violations.

“Many of them are just untrue,” said Tran. “We want to do the right thing, and we have asked O’Brien to give us a legal interpretation of why we are violating these codes.”

One Response to Tentative code hearing set on HB treehouse HB prepares to hear alleged treehouse violations

  1. Mike says:

    I don’t think Mr.Hazen was completely honest when he asked a city official permission to build a “treehouse”. I’m sure the official assumed it was a playhouse for a child built in or around a tree. Something, for the most part, easily removable. Which is sometimes legal, depending on the county/city. This is not a child’s playhouse or easily removable! It a elevated 750sq.ft. Man cave! There is no way, no matter how many people sign your petition, will the city board grant you permission. If they did, then anyone could/would build what-ever, where-ever people wanted and just get their 300 people to sign their petition. All this will take is one person to reject it and you lose. You’re not going to win this, just take it down and realize you just learned a very expensive lesson. Also, no one cares if the treehouse is safe for you, the question is, is it safe for your neighbors when the next hurricane comes and blows your treehouse onto their house/car, killing someone. If the city starts fining them, I foresee this couple will losing their home in the end.

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