Holmes Beach presses for treehouse demolition

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Lynn Tran talks in November 2017 with The Islander about her desire to keep the treehouse she and husband Richard Hazen built on the beachfront around an Australian pine tree. The two-level treehouse has windows and solar electricity. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell
Sharron Hadden of Indiana, Great Britain, and a regular Anna Maria visitor, sides with the city Jan. 16 in the treehouse dispute. She believes the beachfront structure must come down to protect against setting a precedent in sensitive coastal areas.
Malcolm Shantz and Ron Beveridge, of Holmes Beach and originally from Ontario, Canada, agree with the city’s stance Jan. 16 and believe the treehouse must come down. Shantz believes a compromise should’ve been worked out earlier, but now it’s too late. Beveridge said, “If they get away with it, others will do the same thing.”

It’s time to knock it down.

The nearly five-year legal battle waged between the city of Holmes Beach and the owners of an illegal beachfront treehouse is entering its final stages.

Or so the city hopes.

The city issued a code enforcement notice Jan. 18 directing the treehouse owners to apply for a demolition permit. Failure to do so within three weeks likely would result in a city lawsuit to force compliance, according to Mayor Bob Johnson.

After the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a petition filed by Lynn Tran and husband Richard Hazen, the treehouse owners said they would ask the city for a reprieve from demolition for the treehouse at their property at 103 29th St., which includes their home and four short-term rental units named Angelinos Sea Lodge.

“We had planned to ask the city leaders for reconsideration, taking into account the fact that there are many others who have asked the treehouse to stay from near and far, all the way to London, Germany and Spain,” Tran wrote in a Jan. 19 email to The Islander.

Those hopes were dashed by the city notice, Tran wrote.

“To our disappointment, we received a code enforcement notice from the mayor to apply for a demolition permit, following the order of the defunct code enforcement board back in 2013,” Tran wrote. “We don’t have a plan today.”

Johnson said Tran and Hazen have until Feb. 9 to apply for a permit to demolish the structure, which was built in 2011 without city or state permits.

Tran said earlier in January she would ask for a meeting to pursue saving the treehouse. Instead, the city issued what amounts to an ultimatum.

Tran and Hazen have been under city order to remove the treehouse since 2013.

It’s been a long, expensive court battle.

Tran and Hazen say they’ve paid more than $180,000 in attorney fees and costs, which does not include city-imposed fines ordered July 22, 2015, of $50 per day, amounting to $45,600 as of Jan. 19.

City treasurer Lori Hill said Holmes Beach has paid nearly $130,000 in attorney fees and costs.



Treehouse opinions flood Holmes Beach email

The city of Holmes Beach received more than 50 emails — pro and con — over its handling of the treehouse owned by Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen on the beachfront at 103 29th St., which includes their home and four short-term rental units named Angelinos Sea Lodge.

Here are a few of them:

“The treehouse crew has always preferred the court of public opinion to the rule of law. They sued. They lost. It’s $140,000 too late to negotiate.”

— Allen Wurzbach, former Homes Beach resident and planning commission member

“When is it coming down and when are they paying the fine? It is ridiculous how much they have cost us in tax dollars over something that should have been torn down three years ago.”

— George Talbot, Holmes Beach

      “Count this one for tearing the treehouse down now. It is an illegal eyesore.”

— Joel Shoemaker, Bradenton

“These treehouse owners have made the city spend our tax dollars to fight their foolish pursuit. It would be very wrong for the city to now change course and allow them to keep their treehouse.”

— Anthony Niewijk, Holmes Beach

      “She cost this town. Stick with the law and tear it down.”

— Karen MacDonald, Holmes Beach

      “We are so upset and disappointed to see you are ordering the demolition of the treehouse.”

— Betty Fischer, England

      “As a result of the way you choose to treat your citizens, my wife and I will no longer visit your community for any reason.”

— Greg Wojtak, Stevens Point, Wisconsin

“Don’t you have anything better to do than worry about tearing down that treehouse? We will not be visiting your town any more.”

— Ian Smith, no town listed

      “Attempting to force the treehouse removal is heartbreaking and changes my perception of the area. I’ve been disillusioned in my perception of Holmes Beach.”

— Kathy Hughes Williams, Evans, Georgia

“Your city’s handling of this treehouse problem has been disgraceful.”

— Chris Fuller, Indian Rocks Beach

  • Terry O’Connor


Street views on the treehouse

text and photos by Kathy Prucnell

4 thoughts on “Holmes Beach presses for treehouse demolition

  1. Danny

    What a government outreach!!!

    Wasste of taxpayer money for what. A tree house. Dumb rules in a dumb city with dumb people who allow government overreach. Anybody who thinks he / she isnt dumb: Stand up. Not for the treehouse but against government overreach and waste of your tax $$$

  2. Michael Doerr

    This is a complete travesty. The city should acknowledge that the building inspector ruled that they did not need a building permit for a tree house. The city should acknowledge that the thousands of dollars spent in litigating this matter are because of a mistake made by the city and its refusal to ameliorate the situation. To my knowledge the city has not provided the owners a list of code violations, The only violation is that it does not have a permit which the city told them they did not need.. And when you really get down to it…does the city code require a permit for a tree house? And when you really get down to it…what is the harm or potential harm that the tree house is posing to the health , safety and welfare of the citizens of Holmes Beach, the citizens of Florida or the citizens of the USA.
    The only harm is to the egos of the Holmes Beach officials. What nonsense this all is. Yes my friend, right here in friendly little Holmes Beach, yes right here in Holmes Beach we have as much B.S. bureaucracy as Chicago!

    1. bonnerj

      In spite of many reports to the contrary, you appear to be misinformed. The treehouse owners did not reqest a permit — they encountered a building official in the hallway and asked the question… does a treehouse need a permit. They failed to mention it would have 3 bored pilings on the beach, two stories with windows and power, that it infringed on city property and the state erosion control line. They made a casual inquiry in the hallway — and who wouldn’t assume they meant they wanted to build a kids’s treehouse? They have made a mockery of the system. And finally, they had their day in court. The local judge ruled against them and he heard testimony from all sides. The code board hearing went against them, too. Facts might help support your arguments. — Bonner Joy

  3. Duane Holm

    Lets all build a house out on the beach…yeah
    Without permission…..yeah
    I see no problem with that.
    Tear the thing down, stop wasting taxpayers money on illegal construction.

Comments are closed.