Treehouse owners vow to continue legal fight

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Lynn Tran turned to tears during her testimony at a 12th Circuit Court hearing in Bradenton in January. Islander File Photo: Chris-Ann Allen

Treehouse owners Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen vow to continue fighting after another loss in their appeal to the courts.

“I never thought the legal process would be so long and difficult,” Tran said July 23. “This has been a real learning experience.”

Tran described herself as “stubborn” and pledged, “We’re going to continue this. We’ve gone this far and will keep going.”

The legal battle stems from the construction in 2011 of an elevated two-story beachfront treehouse — built without permits — in an Australian pine tree at 103 29th St., Holmes Beach, where Tran and Hazen reside and operate Angelino’s Sea Lodge.

The owners have been in litigation regarding the treehouse with the city and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection since 2013, over claims from the city and state that the structure was built too close to the beach.

The treehouse has been the subject of proceedings before the city code board, the DEP and the courts, including two decisions in the 12 Circuit Court that were appealed to the 2nd DCA. A hearing was sought and denied by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Most recently, July 17, the self-represented couple again lost on appeal after three chances to amend their complaint to the U.S. District Court against the city of Holmes Beach, the DEP and other defendants.

After dismissing two complaints, the federal court urged Tran and Hazen to seek legal advice, saying they had one last chance.

“I’m not an attorney,” Tran said. “I’ve done a lot of research and followed the rules, but this is a cumbersome process and I think it prevents regular people from going to court.”

Tran said she and her husband are exploring options for a re-hearing. “There are two types of re-hearings we can ask for in state court,” she said. “I’m doing research on that.”

Tran said “life is hard enough” and the treehouse provides her, as well as visitors, enjoyment.

“People tell me that they’re happy it’s still standing,” she said.

Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth did not reply to a request for comment by The Islander’s press time July 27.