Holmes Beach files lawsuit to force treehouse removal

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Owner Lynn Tran stands May 19 on the beach in front of the treehouse, the subject of controversy in Holmes Beach since 2011. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

It’s back to court for Holmes Beach and the couple who own the beachfront treehouse.

To force removal of the treehouse, the city of Holmes Beach filed a new lawsuit Feb. 22 in 12th Circuit Court against owners Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen.

“We’re looking for an order that puts the court’s authority behind our orders,” said attorney Jim Dye, principal in Dye, Harrison, and the lead attorney for the treehouse matter since 2013.

The petition sets forth three theories “that get us to the same place,” Dye said.

The complaint asks the court to enforce the 2013 code enforcement board and 2016 special magistrate orders through an injunction requiring “immediate removal.”

Tran and Hazen have been under city orders to remove the treehouse since July 2013, as well as a fine of $50 a day effective July 22, 2015. The suit estimates the fine has climbed to $50,000.

Tran and Hazen built the two-deck treehouse without permits in 2011 seaward of the erosion control line in a 50-foot city setback at their a residence, which includes four short-term rental units called Angelinos Sea Lodge, 103 29th St.

What’s followed has kept the residents and city at odds — and the owners taking a loss at each juncture.

The owners maintain they built the treehouse as a reading space and for their personal relaxation, and were told they didn’t need a permit by a former city official before constructing it.

They sought and failed to obtain an after-the-fact permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, relief in state courts and lastly, in a petition turned down by the U.S. Supreme Court in January, they lost plea for a citywide vote to grandfather the treehouse.

The owners have 20 days to respond after being served and, as of Feb. 23, they had not been served, according to Tran.

“Meanwhile, the fine will keep running,” Dye said.

The city also asks the court for its costs and fees in bringing the new action.

Judge Lon S. Arend has been assigned to the case.

3 thoughts on “Holmes Beach files lawsuit to force treehouse removal

  1. Holly Scherzi

    The treehouse hurts nothing. It was well built, looks like “old Florida” and is well maintained. I doesn’t cause traffic jams, it doesn’t hurt the environment, unlike the new Marriott which will do both.

    If they were told by a public official in 2011 they did not need a permit than so be it. Grandfather the thing and move on.
    It is actually an asset to the beach, serves as a landmark for many who walk the beach and now quite a conversation piece.

    There must be something more important these elected officials can do with their time.

    Reply
  2. Dr. Mike Thomason

    The whole process shows the dumbness of the City of AMI. They are wasting tax dollars for no public benefit. No common sense. Any official shall be held personally accountable for that non-sense.

    Reply
    1. bonnerj

      That’s a good one — but the treehouse was built in Holmes Beach and the city and the state both require permits to build. Maybe you would enjoy reading the court transcript from the hearing won by the city.

      Reply

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