As promised during a Sept. 26 Holmes Beach work session, a citizen’s initiative ordinance to grandfather the tree house at Angelino’s Sea Lodge, 103 29th St., was moved to an Oct. 8 commission meeting for a possible vote.
As expected, a motion to approve the ordinance — drafted by Sarasota attorney David Levin representing the tree house owners, Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen — died.
As a formality, Commissioner David Zaccagnino moved to approve the ordinance, but lacking a second, the ordinance was rejected.
Tran and Hazen successfully forced the vote by gathering 10 percent of Holmes Beach voter’s signatures on a petition, but it was just one step in the process that has branched into multiple directions.
The next step — a referendum — would allot a vote on the fate of the tree house, but the city has filed a for a declaratory judgment in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court that would kill the special election. The action filed by city attorney Patricia Petruff seeks a legal opinion as to whether a development order is a building permit.
A new statute says a referendum cannot take place for a development order and Petruff contends that anything requiring a building permit is a development order.
In the meantime, Hazen and Tran were found to be in violation of city codes by the code enforcement board, which imposed a $100 a day fine beginning Sept. 13, and continuing until the structure either comes into compliance or is removed.
Since the board found the structure was found to be built seaward of the state’s erosion control line, it cannot be brought into compliance. However, the city has agreed to inspect the structure if it is relocated on the property.
Levin is expected to appeal the code enforcement findings, as well as seek a stay on the imposed fine until the outcome of the appeal.
Even if the city loses its development order argument, Tran and Hazen are successful on their appeals and the tree house goes to a favorable special election, the final obstacle remains. The tree house location seaward of the erosion control line is a state violation.
Under Florida law, a city cannot create an ordinance that is contrary to state law.