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Holmes Beach responds to tree house litigation

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

Movement in one of the five actions currently flowing through the 12th Judicial Circuit Court in Manatee County took place Jan. 13 with the city filing a response to a show-cause order filed in October 2013 by Sarasota attorney David Levin, representing Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen in regard to what the city has deemed an illegal tree house at their seaside resort.

The city found the tree house at Angelinos Sea Lodge to be in violation of several city and state codes and to have been built without a permit.

In mid-September 2013, the Holmes Beach Code Enforcement Board upheld the building department’s findings and levied a $100 daily fine until the structure is removed or brought into compliance.

Since it was found to be built in the setback for the erosion control line, a state violation, it is unlikely the tree house can be brought into compliance.

According to building official Tom O’Brien, the fine continues to accrue and will only be dissolved if the legal efforts by Hazen and Tran are successful.

In the meantime, the legal wrangling continues. Levin filed an appeal of the code enforcement board’s findings and an appeal of the city’s final administrative order to remove the structure or rectify its non-compliant status.

The city has two cases pending that declare Tran’s and Hazen’s petition initiative null and void, as well as seeking a declaratory judgment that would essentially end the case. The city claims language in state statutes provides the requirements of a building permit that was not applied for or obtained.

The latest legal move is the city’s response to the order imposing the fine.

Anna Maria city attorney Jim Dye, partners with Holmes Beach city attorney Patricia Petruff at their own law firm, is representing Holmes Beach in the tree house matter. He argued that multiple cases regarding Levin’s request for show cause are already before the court.

He also argues that Levin is making factual statements to the court without supporting records.

According to the response, Dye also states the court should deny the motion to stay the administrative order, “as it has been filed in the incorrect proceeding and because the circuit court does not have jurisdiction to stay a lower tribunal’s order,” referring to the code enforcement board’s decision.

Dye states that Levin will get a chance to make that argument in a different proceeding.

While both sides anticipate a drawn out legal process, the fine continues. From the day the code enforcement imposed the fine, which was Sept. 13, 2013, 152 days had passed and the fine is a still accruing on Feb. 12, 2014.

At $100 a day, the fine was $15,200 — and climbing.

5 Responses to Holmes Beach responds to tree house litigation

  1. DMK says:

    As Chicago faced a long and expensive court battle in its desire to close Meigs Field, then mayor, Richard Daley, sent in the demolition crews one night and they tore up the runways.
    It’s now a beautiful lakefront park.
    Government intervention isn’t always a bad thing.

  2. Beachman says:

    Any chance on resurrecting Mayor Daley so he can continue the practice?

    That tree house is a joke as are the owners.

  3. Patrick says:

    Be careful what you wish for. Mayor Daley’s “Chicago Way” did a lot more than build parks.

    Let this play out in court, like it should. Unilateral government action is not the answer. The tree people are going to lose, and it sounds like they will lose big. Based on the traditional timing of these cases, they will probably be $80-100K into fines before this is over.

  4. AMI resident says:

    Such a waste of time and money. The treehouse isn’t hurting anyone or anything. So sad how people can be so petty and mean-spirited. Meanwhile, lawyers are getting filthy rich over much ado about nothing.

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