The city of Holmes Beach is adamant.
It is demanding the illegal treehouse on the beach be removed.
The owners are just as adamant in defying the order.
The embattled owners of the treehouse received a demand from city code enforcement Jan. 18 directing them to apply for a demolition permit by Feb. 9.
They responded with a four-page letter listing five demands of their own, including reimbursement of their “monetary damages.”
Treehouse owners Lynn Tran and husband Richard Hazen cited the U.S. Constitution and Florida state law in declining to apply for the permit required to dismantle their two-story beachfront treehouse.
The treehouse was built in 2011 without city or state permits at 103 29th St., which includes Tran and Hazen’s home and four rental units named Angelinos Sea Lodge.
The treehouse owners’ letter claims the city code enforcement board exceeded its jurisdiction under the U.S. Constitution, amendment 14; the Bill of Rights, amendments 1, 5, 8 and 9; and the Florida Constitution, sections 2 and 9.
“We wish to settle this matter amicably without further court action within 60 days by April 11,” they wrote.
The letter demands of the city include:
- Revoke the “unlawful” code enforcement order and render it null and void.
- Exempt the treehouse from permit requirements.
- Remove the prohibition of structures in the 50-foot setback from the Gulf of Mexico.
“The city’s prohibition of building and structure in our beachfront setback goes too far and deprives us of our legitimate use of our property,” according to Tran and Hazen’s letter
- Revise land development codes to honor the “Supreme Law of the Land” and the statutory authorities.
- Reimburse monetary damages brought on “due to no fault of our own.”
Tran and Hazen say their legal quest to keep the treehouse did not end Jan. 8 when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear their petition.
“The answer is no to the demolition permit,” Lynn Tran said.
City attorney Patricia Petruff said the treehouse owners have no legal legs to stand on.
“The petition to the Supreme Court was a long shot, but its denial makes it clear the owners have no further judicial options,” according to a memo from the law firm of Dye Harrison, the Bradenton law firm that represents Holmes Beach.
The next move is a city lawsuit to force compliance, according to a motion to proceed to court adopted by the commission at its Feb. 15 meeting.
Tran and Hazen have been under city order to remove the treehouse since 2013.
“Now that all judicial and administrative options have been exhausted, it is time to comply with the code enforcement board’s final administrative order,” Johnson wrote Tran and Hazen. “The city has been lenient in allowing you to seek the judicial reviews you thought prudent, but since none of those was successful, you have a legal duty to remove the illegal structure from your property.”
Tran and Hazen say it cost them $30,000 to build the treehouse, which sits on concrete pilings and has solar power. They’ve paid more than $180,000 in attorney fees and costs, plus they are liable for city-imposed fines of $50 per day, which was ordered July 22, 2015, amounting to another $47,000 as of Feb. 15.
“Please note the daily fine continues to accrue until the city has determined the property complies with the code enforcement order,” Johnson wrote.
Other penalties the owners could face if they continue to ignore legal rulings include a lien on the short-term rental property, contempt of court findings and jail in severe cases, according to Petruff.