U.S. Supreme Court nixes treehouse review — demolition next?

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The Islander learned Jan. 8 that the U.S. Supreme Court listed the case of Hazen-Tran v. Holmes Beach among the cases denied for review.

Holmes Beach Mayor Bob Johnson is happy — but taking a conciliatory approach on the future of the treehouse — but the city won the day in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court denied review of the case Jan. 8 in a 45-page document, under a “certiorari denied” heading among some 600 denials after a closed-door conference in the week prior.

“It is what we anticipated and we’re glad,” Johnson said about the win, adding the city is looking for an end to the matter.

Treehouse owners Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen sought the high court review.

They built the structure in a towering Australian pine in 2011 without state or city permits, inside a city setback on their residential property, including their four-unit resort, Angelinos Sea Lodge, 103 29th St.

The couple and attorney David Levin, of Icard, Merrill, Cullis, Timm, Furen & Ginsburg in Sarasota, Tran and Hazen’s attorney since 2011, brought their petition to the high court in October.

They challenged a trial court judge’s order, a rubber stamp of a city-prepared order, on due process grounds, saying it lacked the appearance of fairness.

The city denied the owners challenge, saying the owners flaunted proper court procedure by failing to bring its federal due process arguments earlier.

The city has issued Tran and Hazen orders to remove the treehouse since 2013, including fines now at more than $44,000.

As far as enforcing the city’s removal order — and the $50 per day fine — the mayor said the city will initiate discussions with the property owners to “hopefully,” finally get this resolved.

The case began in 2013 after Holmes Beach asked the lower court to interpret the city charter allowing residents to submit petitions for a ballot vote.

The city maintained a state law enacted the same year precluded allowing the electorate from voting on what amounts to a development order while the owners contended the treehouse was an accessory.

Tran said she expected the high court decision and was not sure what’s next — if she’ll apply for a demolition permit or not.

She said Jan. 8 she needs a few days to think.

“I’m disappointed. I think there are others disappointed, also,” Tran said.

“Do they really, really want to take this thing down?” she asked.

The media attention their story has received — spanning the country and overseas — is a “good advertisement for all island businesses,” she said.

The Supreme Court receives 7,000-8,000 petitions for writ of certiorari each term and grants and hears oral arguments in about 80 cases.

2 thoughts on “U.S. Supreme Court nixes treehouse review — demolition next?

  1. Sophia

    Lesson learned, ‘get it in writing’! Especially when dealing with any level of govt agency. From what I understand, they did ask if permit was necessary and was told no. Shame cause it’s just another tattle-tale neighbor and govt agency push/shove move. The structure has proven it’s integrity with hurricane endurance with Irma being a direct hit! Shame Holmes Beach elected officials still seem to be so up in arms about it. Think about your money wasted when it comes to voting people! This is as much on you as it is on the parties involved! Such a waste of time, energy and money when there are far more important issues facing the Island! *sigh*


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