HB prepares to force treehouse demolition

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The treehouse in August 2017. Islander File Photo: Bonner Joy

The demolition deadline came and went but the doomed treehouse still stands.

Treehouse owner Lynn Tran emailed The Islander Feb. 9, on the afternoon of the city-imposed deadline to apply for a demolition permit for the structure, stating there will be “no demolition.”

What’s next likely involves more trips to the courthouse and thousands more spent on attorney fees with a role reversal casting the city as plaintiffs and the treehouse owners as defendants.

The final legal appeal by treehouse owners Lynn Tran and husband Richard Hazen ended when the U.S. Supreme Court declined Jan. 8 to hear their petition.

The city issued a code enforcement notice Jan. 18 directing Tran and Hazen to apply for a demolition permit by Feb. 9.

Holmes Beach Mayor Bob Johnson wants the owners of the illegal treehouse to tear it down voluntarily. Removing the two-story structure nestled in an Australian pine will require a demolition permit.

As the owners apparently are declining to acquire a demolition permit, Holmes Beach will take “appropriate action,” according to a letter from city attorney Patricia Petruff.

The next move is likely a city lawsuit to force compliance, according to Johnson, as it is long past time to end this costly standoff.

Tran and Hazen have been under city order to remove the $30,000 treehouse since 2013.

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.

      Tran and Hazen say they’ve paid more than $180,000 in attorney fees and costs, plus they are liable for city-ordered fines of $50 per day since July 22, 2015, amounting to $46,650 as of Feb. 9.

Tran incorporated HLT Dream Inc. in 2011 — the year the treehouse was built — to sell treehouse merchandise online and help pay their costs to retain the treehouse.

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


Treehouse chronology at a glance

Feb. 9: Final deadline for owners to voluntarily demolish treehouse. Holmes Beach extended the deadline four times.

Jan. 18: City code enforcement directs treehouse owners to apply for a demolition permit.

Jan. 8: The U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear a petition by Tran and Hazen, which exhausts their appeal options.

Oct. 23, 2017: Tran and Hazen file appeal with Florida’s Second Court of Appeal. The appeal is later denied — twice.

September 2016: Holmes Beach rejects owners’ application for after-the-fact permit.

Aug. 10, 2017: First demolition deadline extended to Sept. 11, then Sept. 18, in deference to Hurricane Irma.

Aug. 15, 2016: 12th Circuit Judge Don T. Hall rules in favor of Holmes Beach.

July 22, 2015: City begins levying $50 per day fine.

July 30, 2013: City code enforcement orders treehouse removal.

November 2011: Anonymous complaint alerts city to treehouse.

2011: Lynn Tran and husband Richard Hazen build a treehouse without city or state permits at 103 29th St., Holmes Beach.

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