DEP: Treehouse owner can apply for construction permit

The owners of Angelinos Sea Lodge — previously ordered by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to remove or modify the property’s beachfront treehouse — will now be allowed to apply for a permit for the structure they began seaward of the Coastal Construction Control Line more than a year ago.

    “I’m not going to jump to the assumption we’ll be given the permit,” said Lynn Tran, co-owner with Richard Hazen of the lodge at 103 29th St., Holmes Beach. “But we’ll go through the process and see. We’re glad we have the opportunity.”

    In a Dec. 13 letter, DEP’s Water Resource Management Division Environmental Manager Jim Martinello said the DEP would issue a final order requiring removal of the treehouse if a completed application is not received by the agency within 45 days.

    Martinello said after staff review of a Sept. 18 letter from the owners and accompanying photographs, the DEP decided to allow the owners to apply for the after-the-fact permit.

    State law requires permits for building seaward of the CCCL to protect the beach and dune system from destabilization or destruction caused by beach structures.

    The city referred the complaint to the DEP and advised the city would require engineering and a survey if the owners seek a DEP permit.

    In December 2011, the DEP told the owners the treehouse might not qualify for an after-the-fact permit. In an Aug. 6 letter, the DEP recommended its removal, allowing 30 days for its owners to submit a modified design and location.

    The September letter from owners Tran and Hazen appealed the DEP order, saying they had invested nearly $50,000 in safety improvements and that the structure withstood two recent tropical storms.

    Asked why the agency appeared to have changed its course from the Aug. 6 letter, DEP spokesperson Dee Ann Miller said, “We are merely allowing them an opportunity to apply. The application will undergo the normal review process.”

    Tran and Hazen began construction in April 2011, claiming they had received permission from the Holmes Beach City building department, according to their Sept. 18 letter.

    “We even checked with two Holmes Beach commissioners who confirmed that there are no permits required and no regulations exist for tree decks and treehouses,” they wrote.

    The owners stated, “We feel that we have been unreasonably threatened and denied our rights to peaceful enjoyment, freedom to create and pursue happiness in our back yard,” the owners concluded.

    In the December 2012 letter, the DEP advised the owners that to obtain an after-the-fact permit they must submit:

    • Names and addresses of immediately adjacent owners.

    • Evidence of property ownership.

    • A no-objection letter from the city of Holmes Beach that the activity does not contravene local setback requirements, zoning or building codes.

    • Two copies of a survey in accordance with the Florida Administrative Code.

    • Two copies of a site plan, including the location of construction activities relative to the CCCL.

    • Two copies of detailed final foundation plans and specifications.

    The DEP letter also advised the owners a permit fee would be determined after review of the application.

    In addition to the treehouse, the lodge includes a beachfront home and four vacation rental units.

    The tree structure is not intended to be used by lodge guests, according to Tran.

    “It’s not a house,” she said. “It’s for private use. It’s just for us, our family and friends.”

        She added, “A lot of people like to stop by and take photos. It adds a little charm.”

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