NewsSarasota, Manatee County


Owners of Holmes Beach treehouse file lawsuit to stop $65,000 in city fines

Since 2015, city officials imposed $50 daily fines to compel the owners to remove the treehouse
Posted at 3:53 PM, Dec 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-31 02:54:16-05

HOLMES BEACH, Fla.- The couple who built a backyard treehouse on Holmes Beach continues their fight with city officials.

Richard Hazen and Lynn Tran filed a lawsuit in December trying to stop city officials from imposing a daily fine. The couple has accumulated about $65,000 or more in city fines because of the treehouse.

The lawsuit stated, "The city imposed a $50 per day fine since July 22, 2015 to compel the removal of the treehouse."

"It's hard to think of that number so that's why were asking the court to stop it. Nobody can afford that," said Lynn Tran.

The couple spent nearly $30,000 to build the treehouse in 2011.

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"It has been going on since 2011 when somebody complained about the treehouse. I don’t have any reason why they’d complain about it. I don’t even know who they are, but that's basically how it got started," said Tran.

The couple filed the lawsuit on December 10 against the City of Holmes Beach and The Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The couple said they were told by city staff they did not need a permit to build the treehouse. The couple also applied for an after-the-fact permit with both the DEP and the City of Holmes Beach, but permits were denied based on inaccurate or inconsistent interpretation of numerous regulations, according to the lawsuit.

"We just want to save our property, bottom line," said Tran.

More than 4,700 people including tourists signed a petition to save the treehouse from destruction as it harms no one and is the subject of interest, the lawsuit stated.

"My husband and I put it up because the view is just gorgeous from the tree, it's a place to relax," said Tran.

The couple said they will continue to fight for their treehouse.

A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said its attorney has received the lawsuit and will review it.

The Mayor of Holmes Beach said she has no interest in lifting the daily fines, but city attorneys will also review the lawsuit.

"Our right to enjoy our property, that's pretty much it. We put a lot of effort and a lot of money into it," added Tran.