Tag Archives: Community

Anna Maria names Citizens of the Year

An Anna Maria committee has selected the city’s 2019 Citizens of the Year — Bob Carter and Dick York, both longtime residents of Anna Maria.

The commission-appointed citizen recognition committee included Kathy Patten, Alan Tripp — husband of Commissioner Amy Tripp — and Debbie Haynes.

They named Carter and York at the Jan. 15 city meeting.

Carter, husband of Commissioner Carol Carter, is a philanthropist and chairman of Sarasota-based Carter, a 30-member team of consultants who advise some four dozen nonprofits around the world on strategic planning, governance and fundraising campaigns.

York is the retired president and CEO of an information technology firm. He and wife Sally are actively involved in the community. York believes strongly in local municipalities maintaining the ability to govern themselves as they see fit and has funded and maintained a website dedicated to this effort.

“Both recipients are extremely well-deserving of the award,” Haynes said, “particularly with all their efforts toward preserving home rule.”

There will be a reception in honor of the recipients at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23, followed by an awards presentation at the 6 p.m. city commission meeting at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria.

Legislature opens session, home rule at risk

There appears to be a theme.

The 2020 Legislature is hearing bills that could chip away at local regulatory power.

“The legislative session started today and the big issue seems to be preemption of local government,” Holmes Beach city attorney Patricia Petruff said at a Jan. 14 commission meeting. “That’s the password for this legislative session.”

Senate Bill 1128, filed by state Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, would preempt the regulation of vacation rentals to the state, prohibiting a local law, ordinance or regulation from allowing or requiring inspections or licensing of vacation rentals.

The bill was introduced Jan. 14 and approved 8-2 by the innovation, industry and technology subcommittee. It was referred to the commerce and tourism subcommittee, which is chaired by Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota.

The house is expected to generate a companion bill.

The bill is concerning to island officials, who have crafted regulations for short-term rentals to help maintain quality of life for residents that live near large vacation homes that generate trash, noise and parking problems.

If 1128 passes, those regulations would be preempted to the state.

Other bills filed would strip home rule in such areas as private property rights, short-term rentals, sales tax, water resources and transportation funding.

Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach have employed lobbyists since 2017 to defend the cities’ right to rule themselves.

Holmes Beach Commission Chair Jim Kihm, also the legislative liaison for the board, said Jan. 14 that 3,300 bills — mostly appropriations requests — have been filed for the 2020 session, of which the Florida League of Cities is following 490.

The league helps municipalities with home rule advocacy.

Kihm encouraged people to visit homerulefl.com, a website created by the Your Home Rule FL Committee, to inform people of the struggle with the Legislature against preemption. The website also provides a link to email legislators in opposition to SB 1128.

Bills being considered this session and contact info for legislative committee members can be tracked online at www.flsenate.gov and myfloridahouse.gov.

Contact state legislators

Florida legislators have left their districts for the 2020 session in Tallahassee.

They can be contacted via phone, email, regular mail or in person on matters regarding bills this session.

Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, can be reached at 941-741-3401. His Bradenton office address is 1023 Manatee Ave. W. He can be emailed at galvano.bill@flsenate.gov.

Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, can be reached at 941-378-6309. His Sarasota office address is 381 Interstate Boulevard. He can be emailed at gruters.joe@flsenate.gov.

State Rep. Will Robinson, R-Bradenton, can be reached at 941-708-4968 or 717 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton. His email is william.robinson@myfloridahouse.gov.

Holmes Beach bans scooter cars, megacycles, adds regulations

Following a year of off-and-on discussion, the city of Holmes Beach has set regulations for some alternative modes of transportation.

Holmes Beach commissioners Jan. 14 unanimously approved the second reading of an ordinance regulating bike- and scooter-shares, as well as renting and operating motorized scooters and Segways.

The ordinance, effective as of the Jan. 14 vote, bans megacycles — four-wheeled vehicles powered by pedaling — and scooter cars — three-wheeled vehicles powered by 49cc engines — from rental or operation in the city.

There are no scooter cars for rent in Holmes Beach, but a business in Anna Maria offers the licensed vehicles.

The ordinance prohibits:

  • Online or app-based rental of point-to-point “micro-mobility devices,” including e-scooters and bike-shares;
  • Rental of motorized scooters;
  • Rental and operation of scooter cars;
  • Rental and operation of megacycles;
  • Businesses offering bicycle sharing;
  • Motorized devices on sidewalks;
  • and the operation of motorized scooters and mopeds in bike lanes.

The ordinance also includes regulatory powers for the city regarding the rental of 49cc scooters, mopeds and Segways.

Segways and electric bicycles will not be available for rent in the city — except Segway tours — but people will be allowed to use their own vehicles.

Larger scooters, such as Vespas, are not prohibited from city streets, but are not allowed on bike lanes and sidewalks.

At previous meetings on the matter, residents spoke up about their concerns regarding alternative vehicles. Many people said scooter cars are unsafe, due to their low height and should be banned, even though they are street-legal.

There was no public comment Jan. 14.

Police Chief Bill Tokajer said he would spread the word about the prohibitions and tightened regulations in a pamphlet.

“All of the comments that I’ve received about this ordinance have been in favor of it,” Commission Chair Jim Kihm said Jan. 14. “It brings rule and organization to the many types of transportation that are out there now.”


What’s banned and what’s not?

According to state statutes, a “micro-mobility device” is a motorized transportation device made available through an online application, website or software for point-to-point trips that does not travel faster than 20 mph on level ground. This includes e-scooters and bikes.

Bike- and scooter-shares can be dropped off and picked up at stations and, in Holmes Beach, are prohibited by the new ordinance.

A “megacycle” is a four-wheeled, pedal-powered vehicle that can hold 5-15 people and may have an auxiliary motor to allow higher speeds, although they typically do not exceed 15 mph., and also is prohibited.

A “scooter car” or “scoot coupe” is an open-air, three-wheeled vehicle powered by a 49cc engine, available for rent in Anna Maria, but cannot be rented or operated in Holmes Beach.

A “moped” operator is seated and operates at a speed not exceeding 30 mph and the moped can be pedaled. A “motorized scooter” may or may not have a seat or pedals, travels only up to 20 mph and can be operated on city streets.

— ChrisAnn Allen

Probation results from alcohol-related driving

A Holmes Beach man arrested for allegedly driving under the influence is on probation for a year.

Holmes Beach police stopped Mitchell Taylor Feb. 4, 2019, in the 2800 block of Gulf Drive. An officer had observed Taylor drive a minivan with one working headlight across the centerline of the road, according to an HBPD report.

Taylor performed poorly on a road sobriety test and an officer transported him to the HBPD, where he consented to a breath-alcohol test, whick measured 0.186 and 0.194. The legal BAC limit is 0.08.

In December 2019, after Taylor pleaded no contest to a charge of alcohol-related reckless driving, a judge placed him on one-year probation.

The judge also ordered Taylor to pay costs — $55 per month for probation supervision, $317 in fines and $130 in attorney and court fees.

Dead dolphin recovered from Anna Maria beach

thumb image
Gretchen Lovewell, center, program manager for the stranding investigations team at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium on City Island in Sarasota, arrived to oversee the removal of a male dolphin that washed up on the Gulf shore near the Palmetto Avenue beach access in Anna Maria. Mote will determine cause of death with a necropsy, but no trauma was evident, Lovewell told people gathered on the beach. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy

Nack had issues.

Gretchen Lovewell, program manager for the stranding investigations team at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium on City Island in Sarasota, wrote The Islander an email Jan. 10, explaining that the dolphin that stranded and died on the Gulf shore near the Palmetto Avenue beach access in Anna Maria had “several issues.”

Her post-necropsy update stated that most of the male dolphin’s organs were abnormal and it had recently eaten four “decent-sized catfish.”

Lovewell said there was “no smoking gun,” but it was a “very sick animal.”

Lovewell told people gathered on the beach there was no evident trauma and age may have been a factor. The stranding team was familiar with the dolphin named Nack. It had been tracked for years by members of the Sarasota Bay Dolphin Project.

Anna Maria ditches veteran commissioner for new appointee

thumb image
Joe Muscatello is sworn into the office of commissioner Jan. 9 by Anna Maria city clerk LeAnne Addy.
Former Anna Maria Commissioner Dale Woodland addresses the mayor and commission members Jan. 9. Islander Photos: Phil Colpas

It took a couple months, but it’s official: The fifth Anna Maria City Commission seat is no longer vacant.

The chair was filled Jan. 9 by a unanimous vote by commissioners for the appointment of Joe Muscatello.

The seat was previously held by Dale Woodland, who served 16 years, eight back-to-back two-year terms, as commissioner. Woodland failed to qualify for re-election in November 2019 because he paid the $48 qualifying fee with a personal check instead of a designated campaign account.

The commission agreed to accept applications for the vacant seat through close of business Jan. 8.

Mayor Dan Murphy said Jan. 9 the applicants were Muscatello and Woodland.

Each applicant was given up to five minutes to address the commission during the regular meeting Jan. 9.

Muscatello moved to the island 10 years ago to help care for his ailing father. He’s been vacationing with his family on the island since 1978. He moved from Holmes Beach to Anna Maria two years ago.

He has 45 years of experience working in various capacities at the local government level, including serving as mayor of his hometown in “the coalfields of West Virginia.”

He is a proponent of home rule.

“You have to fight the state always trying to take the power away from local governments,” he said.

Muscatello didn’t file his application until Jan. 8.

He ultimately decided to run at the last minute, after reading a newspaper article about what the city commissioners and mayor were most proud of accomplishing in 2019.

“It’s the intrinsic value of this,” Muscatello said. “When you see something you’ve done that you’ve contributed to the community. That’s where the reward is in this job.

“You’ve got to love your community. It’s like that old Tina Turner song, ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’ That’s what it is. It’s love. My motto is, ‘Let’s have some fun and get the job done!’”

Woodland said he began his local political career with code enforcement and then the planning and zoning board prior to his long tenure on the city commission.

“I lost the first two times,” Woodland said about his initial run for the city commission. “The third time, I finally got elected. That was the beginning of 16 years. I’m proud of the service I’ve had and I’d appreciate serving more.”

In a Jan. 5 email to The Islander, Woodland wrote: “I am a public servant, always have been and always will be. I have no agenda but to serve. Our residents and visitors alike are welcome and a benefit to our city. I work in our city and am blessed to have people talk to me every day; their input drives me. When we are not always on the same page, our differences are respected and I have to make a decision. That’s my job.”

City commissioners voted via ballot 4-0 in favor of Muscatello.

Murphy congratulated Muscatello on his win and then thanked Woodland for his years of service.

“I hope that you continue to serve the city in other capacities,” Murphy said to Woodland. “I’m hoping we’ll see you here again.”

Muscatello was then sworn in by city clerk LeAnne Addy.

In other city commission news:

  • Commissioner Carol Carter was nominated and accepted the position of city commission chair, which had temporarily been held by Murphy.

Commissioner Mark Short was nominated and accepted the position of city commission vice chair.

  • Murphy appointed Muscatello as liaison to the Island Players, which performs at the theater adjacent to city hall.

The mayor has not yet named the Anna Maria City Pier liaison, a position previously held by Woodland.

  • The commission unanimously passed an ordinance to allow alternative methods of stormwater design to ease the process and reduce the expense for single-family residential lots.
  • An ordinance is being explored to place a 180-day moratorium on electric scooters to allow the city to develop regulations for such uses on rights of way.
  • Consider an ordinance to give law enforcement teeth on regulated water activities in designated areas. Murphy said this mostly concerns personal watercraft at Bayfront Park.
  • Announced that citizen-of-the-year nomination forms must be submitted by noon Wednesday, Jan. 15.

The city will honor the citizen of the year Thursday, Jan. 23, at 5:30 p.m., before the commission meeting at 6 p.m. at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria.

Anna Maria ousts 20-year tenant

thumb image
Workers put finishing touches Jan. 9 on the roof of the buildings at the T-end of the Anna Maria City Pier, 100 S. Bay Blvd., Anna Maria. The buildings will house a restaurant, bait shop and restrooms. Islander Photos: Phil Colpas
Construction supplies are stacked Jan. 9 near the Anna Maria City Pier, which is tentatively closed, pending and opening to fishers in late-February.

The Anna Maria City Pier is still on track for a late-February opening for anglers, but the fate of the pier’s restaurant and bait shop remains unknown.

However, Mario Schoenfelder, city pier tenant since 2000, likely won’t play a role in the pier’s future.

The city commission Jan. 10 voted unanimously to decline Schoenfelder’s final lease offer and will seek requests for proposals from new prospective tenants.

Present at the meeting were Mayor Dan Murphy, Commission Chair Carol Carter, Deputy Chair Mark Short, Commissioner Amy Tripp and the newly appointed commissioner, Joe Muscatello, sworn into office Jan. 9 to fill the vacant seat previously occupied by longtime Commissioner Dale Woodland.

Commissioner Jonathan Crane and Schoenfelder attended the meeting remotely, via phone.

Schoenfelder, who owns the Rod & Reel Pier, 875 N. Shore Drive, Anna Maria, delivered his final pier lease proposal prior to the deadline of Dec. 31, 2019.

The city pier was closed by the city and Schoenfelder’s rent was abated after the September 2017 damage from Hurricane Irma. In 2018, the pier was demolished by the city to make way for a new pier.

Although Murphy said he and Schoenfelder had come to an agreement on many details, there remained two outstanding issues: insurance and rent payments.

According to Schoenfelder’s final proposal, his understanding was that the tenant would be responsible for liability and contents insurance and that the city was responsible for casualty insurance.

“I am asking the city to explain how sufficient insurance coverage would be provided and how a sufficient degree of financial safety for the tenant would be established,” Schoenfelder wrote.

Murphy said at the Jan. 10 meeting, “Mr. Schoenfelder is willing to put up $800,000 for improvements on the pier. My recommendation is that we provide insurance.”

A rough cost estimate for casualty, fire and wind insurance is $50,000 per year, according to Murphy, and about half that amount would go toward insuring improvements with the city insuring any improvements that Schoenfelder couldn’t take with him at the termination of the lease.

That eliminated one point of contention for the mayor, leaving the monthly payment.

Murphy had emailed Schoenfelder Sept. 30, 2019, and presented him with two base-payment options for a new lease.

The first option included a monthly base payment of $21,600, along with either a 3% annual increase to begin after the first year or an annual adjustment based on the consumer price index.

The second option included a monthly base payment of $18,900, along with either a 3% annual increase to begin after the first year or an annual adjustment based on the CPI — $250,000 upon signing the lease.

Schoenfelder countered with monthly payments of $8,000 with the first six months rent-free, to begin when the restaurant opens, CPI-based adjustments kicking in after three years and a 10-year lease with two five-year options.

Carter, who asked Schoenfelder how he came to a payment of $8,000 per month on a new facility when he previously paid nearly $12,000 per month, learned his $12,000 payment offer was based on an investment of $500,000, while the offer to pay $8,000 monthly is based on an initial investment of close to $1 million, the cost for the build-out, fixtures and equipment needed to operate.

The proposed lease was for a 20-year commitment: 10 years plus two five-year options, with a potential percentage increase based on the CPI after the third year of the lease.

The city would be responsible for maintenance, including annual engineer inspections of the pier structure and pilings, according to the proposed terms, and the cost, yet to be determined, would be prorated annually and added to the lease.

Based on the terms of Schoenfelder’s final offer, it would take the city 20 years to pay back its investment of $2.6 million to build the new pier, Murphy said. When the cost of insurance is factored in it is 27 years.

“The pier was a revenue generator to the general fund over the years,” Murphy said. “It will be a long time before the pier will be a revenue generator again.”

Of the total pier cost of $2.6 million, $1.2 million has been paid, while $1.5 million remains outstanding.

“We’ve got the money earmarked for the rest of the pier,” Murphy said. “We’ve got to spend it. But we’ve got it.”

That money will come out of the city’s general revenue fund and “is not the money we get from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the (Manatee County) Tourist Development Council,” Murphy said. “There remains $500,000 between the state of Florida and Manatee County we have yet to collect, but that will not offset the total cost of $2.6 million.”

Former Commissioner Doug Copeland told the commission he opposed Schoenfelder’s offer and supported pursuing the RFP.

From the dais, Tripp said, “I would like to see more options for the city and move forward with the RFP process.”

The commissioners unanimously agreed to decline Schoenfelder’s offer and Short motioned to begin the RFP process. The vote was unanimous.

Murphy said he wanted to issue the RFP by Jan. 15, advertise and allow 30 days for evaluation.

“There have been quite a few people interested in this space,” he said.

The mayor said the RFP wasn’t issued previously because there was still an existing tenant and a lease.

“I believe it’s in the city’s and citizens’ best interest to move forward and look at other options for the pier,” Crane said, adding that open bidding would put a value on the lease and payments.

Crane expressed an interest in Schoenfelder participating in the RFP process.

Schoenfelder said if he did participate, he wouldn’t change his proposal and that he thought it unlikely other restaurateurs would agree to larger payments.

Although Schoenfelder is permitted to reapply during the RFP process, it appeared doubtful.

“I’m not sure how long the RFP process would take, and I’m reluctant to take part in another delay,” Schoenfelder said. “It’s an endless story. And I want this story to be ended.”

Bert Harris victory goes to Holmes Beach, but plaintiffs disagree

thumb image
Attorney Jay Daigneault, defending Holmes Beach in a lawsuit filed by several property owners alleging violations of the Bert J. Harris property rights act, shares a congratulatory moment with Mayor Judy Titsworth Jan. 8 in the Bradenton courtroom. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Allen

The Holmes Beach win hinged on one word.

At a Jan. 8 hearing, 12th Circuit Court Judge Ed Nicholas granted the city of Holmes Beach’s motion for partial summary judgment and denied the same motion filed against the city by three vacation rental property owners.

The property owners claimed the city violated the Bert J. Harris Jr. Private Property Rights Protection Act, which allows demands for compensation due to government regulations that “may inordinately burden, restrict, or limit private property rights,” when it enacted vacation rental regulations limiting occupancy to a maximum of two persons per bedroom.

In his ruling, delivered from the bench at the hearing, Nicholas emphasized use of the word “inordinately,” defining it as “excessive,” and, while allowing the owners were “absolutely burdened,” the occupancy reduction was not sufficient for the claim.

“I don’t think the plaintiffs have come close to establishing anything that could be remotely considered an ‘inordinate burden,’” the judge said.

But the plaintiffs’ attorney disagrees.

Representing the owners, attorney Aaron Thomas of the Najmy Thompson law office in Bradenton, filed a motion Jan. 10 to reconsider the ruling.

Thomas wrote in the motion that the term “inordinate burden” is defined by the Bert Harris Act as an action of a government entity restricting the property owner from attaining “the reasonable, investment-backed expectation for the existing use” and does not limit “reasonable.”

The motion states that the statute was not set up to allow the circuit courts to make that decision.

The owners, properties and their complaints are:

  • AMI Breeze, 209 54th St., 20 to 16 occupants.
  • Coral Escape of Holmes Beach, 132 50th St., reduction of 14 to 12 occupants.
  • Mojito Splash, 304 65th St., 12 to 10 occupants.

During the hearing, Thomas revisited his argument that his clients’ rights were violated when the city enacted enforcement regulations in May 2016 for a September 2015 two-person per bedroom rule.

Prior to the adoption of the rule, there was no occupancy limit for residential rentals.

In 2011, the Legislature limited the ability for local governments to regulate vacation rentals. Then, in 2014, the state gave some authority back to local governments, allowing regulations to abate quality-of-life issues stemming from short-term rentals.

Attorney Jay Daigneault, of the Trask, Daigneault, law firm in Clearwater, assigned case by the city’s insurer, challenged the owners’ right to bring the suits without first being denied a variance, which Thomas countered as futile owing to local regulations.

Thomas argued that the state preemption precluded the city from regulating vacation rentals prior to the comp plan’s 2011 amendment.

Daigneault and Thomas also argued the validity of the property appraisals, with Daigneault citing testimony from the city’s appraiser.

Daigneault said both appraisers agreed that the “highest and best use” must be considered during the appraisal, but the Bert Harris Act only is enacted if the fair market value of the property has been devalued, which he said was not fully cover in the plaintiffs’ appraisals.

In closing, Daigneault said the plaintiffs’ allegations were based on the premise that the city’s occupancy regulations “burdened or diminished the short-term vacation rental industry.” He said the Bert Harris Act is not in place to support “private industry,” adding that the act is meant to be generally applicable.

Thomas closed by reasserting that since the city could not grant a variance to “escape a provision of the comp plan,” and it was relying on state regulations over local ones.

Following Nicholas’ ruling in favor of the city, Daigneault told The Islander, “I appreciate the judge taking the time to consider the case as he did. I think he got it right.”

A ruling on a similar set of cases based on occupancy limits against Holmes Beach, heard in November 2019 by Judge Charles Sniffen, is forthcoming.

First to roll in the bowl

thumb image
Nick Bozza skateboards Jan. 8 in the newly finished bowl — maybe the first to try it out — in Holmes Beach. He and sibling Jolie came to Anna Maria Island on vacation from Staten Island, New York, while cousin Gretchen Bozza came from Great Barrington in the Berkshires in New Hampshire. They were visiting their grandfather, who resides in Tampa, but the family converged at a rental home on Anna Maria Island. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy

Holmes Beach continues trudge down treehouse path

thumb image
Treehouse owner Lynn Tran pleads her case Jan. 7 before 12th Circuit Judge Charles Sniffen at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Allen
A treehouse, built in 2011 in an Australian pine tree by the residents of the beachfront home, still stands on the beach at 103 29th St., Holmes Beach. Islander File Photo

One treehouse built in Holmes Beach in 2011 without a permit has led to four pending lawsuits spanning seven years.

At a hearing Jan. 7 on a lawsuit filed in December 2018, 12th Circuit Judge Charles Sniffen heard the city of Holmes Beach’s motion to dismiss a second amended 11-count complaint by the plaintiffs, treehouse owners Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen.

At the beginning of the proceedings, Sniffen granted the city’s motion for judicial notice to include evidence already proven in cases pertaining to the structure.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, also a defendant in the case, filed a motion similar to the city’s, asking for a more defined complaint and motion to dismiss.

An order posted to the Manatee County public records website stated the court took the motion to dismiss under advisement and continued a Jan. 7 motion to impose sanctions.

At the hearing, attorney Randy Mora of Trask Daigneault, the Clearwater law firm assigned to the case by the city’s insurer, said Holmes Beach moved to dismiss the case on several bases, including “res judicata,” meaning a competent court already made a final decision in the matter.

“This is all about fairness. The plaintiffs don’t agree with what the law says,” Mora said. “And until this court tells them they can’t proceed any further, they will keep trying to get the answer they want.”

The city repeatedly has prevailed over appeals, including in a November 2019 hearing on a case that started in 2013. At that hearing, 12th Circuit Judge Edward Nicholas refuted the plaintiffs’ claim that a city ordinance, including a 50-foot setback from the state’s erosion control line on the beach, amounted to property taking without compensation.

Tran and Hazen built the two-story, uninhabitable structure in 2011 attached to an Australian pine tree on the beach fronting their home and four rental units they operate at 103 29th St., leading to litigation between the city, the DEP and the owners.

The city has argued that the treehouse was built in violation of the city building code and inside the beachfront setback.

The setback rule prohibits structures within 50 feet of the ECL, which separates the public area of the beach from private ownership. The 1992 island beach renourishment project permanently established the ECL.

The owners claim that state law, which allows a more flexible setback, supersedes local law and that then-city inspector Bob Shaffer said no permit was required.

According to the plaintiffs’ amended complaint, Shaffer said, “Just build it safe.”

At the Jan. 7 hearing, Tran said she and Hazen were given approval by the building official, but then were met with resistance from the city and DEP.

“No one told us what to do, so here we go,” she said, in reference to her and Hazen’s first declaratory judgment complaint.

Since 2013, three of four lawsuits are pending in circuit court, while the Jan. 7 case is in state court.

Circuit courts have general trial jurisdiction over matters not assigned by statute to the county courts and also hear appeals from county court cases, while state courts have broad jurisdiction.

Sarasota attorney David Levin is the plaintiffs’ attorney for the circuit court cases.

The plaintiffs are representing themselves in the state case.

A federal suit, added by the treehouse owners, was thrown out in August 2019.

As of press time for The Islander, a date was not set for the continued hearing.

What treehouse? Where?

Some might wonder what people are referring to when “the treehouse” turns up in conversations.

Located in Holmes Beach at 103 29th St. on the beachfront at a residence that includes four short-term rental units, is an elevated two-story, 400-square-foot open-air structure with solar power that was built around a large pine tree.

The owners have been in litigation with the city and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection since 2013 regarding the treehouse, which the city and state claim was built too close to a renourished beach — within the setback for the state’s erosion control line, and without permits.