Will the treehouse owners in Holmes Beach remove the structure?
The week of Sept. 11, the owners, Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen, faced another city deadline to remove the beachfront structure in a large Australian pine at their home and four-unit resort at 103 29th St.
And it comes after their attorney David Levin of Icard Merrill of Sarasota has filed a petition to be docketed no sooner than the first Monday in October with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Tran said the high court petition attacks a lack of due process afforded her case, which aims to let the voters decide the fate of the treehouse on a city ballot. It also seeks to overturn the last trial court proceeding, which ended in an order that rubber-stamped a proposed order submitted by the city.
For the city, attorney Jim Dye of the law firm representing the city, Dye, Deitrich, Petruff & St. Paul, said the owners’ petition for writ of certiorari asks the high court to review the 2nd District Court of Appeal refusal to hear the case.
Dye stressed the owners’ latest appeal “doesn’t have anything to do with” the city’s code board order, which imposed a fine and required the treehouse removed.
Mayor Bob Johnson asked the owners to submit an application for demolition permit by Aug. 10 in a July 26 letter and then extended the deadline to Sept. 11 and Sept. 18.
Tran said she filled out the document for a demolition permit after Johnson granted the last extension, but now was “rethinking it.”
“It doesn’t make much sense to file for the permit while appealing, now does it?”
In an Aug. 25 letter, Johnson warned if “removal of the treehouse does not proceed ahead in good faith, the city reserves the right to seek enforcement through all options it has.”
Dye and Johnson declined to say what enforcement actions were being considered, but Dye said a court order would be needed for the city to forcibly remove the treehouse.
Meanwhile, Tran and Hazen evacuated in advance of Hurricane Irma.
They returned Sept. 11 and reported minimal damage and no structural damage to the treehouse although a large branch broke off the Australian pine that helps support the structure.
Their residence at the four-unit Angelinos Sea Lodge also withstood the storm with “no leaking,” Tran said.
Hazen and Tran said they removed some of the windows on the treehouse before evacuating, so the wind would flow. The windows are 3/8-inch tempered glass, according to documents filed with the city.
Built by Hazen and Tran in 2011, the treehouse came to the city’s attention in November of that year, after an anonymous complaint. The owners maintain city officials verbally told them no permits were needed before they built it as a place where they could read and relax.
The code board, however, ruled July 30, 2013, the structure violated the city’s land development code, including a 50-foot setback from the erosion control line and for failing to obtain permits. The code board ruling led to the owners’ appeal to the 12th Circuit Court.
In September 2016, the owners filed for an after-the-fact permit, which the city denied, citing its location within 30 feet of the erosion control line.
Leading to the latest appeal, Tran and Hazen in 2013 submitted petitions asking the city to invoke the initiative provision of its charter allowing the citywide vote.
The city has thus far won in court and city proceedings.
According to Tran, the legal battles have cost the couple $125,000 — plus a daily fine, now at more than $36,000, still accumulating as a result of the July 2013 code board order.
As of July 31, the city has paid $103,553.56 in costs and attorneys’ fees related to the case.