Manatee couple asks for help to save island tree house

By Summer Smith, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Time is running out for the owners of a large tree house built two years ago on Anna Maria Island.

The owners, Richard Hazen and Lynn Tran, said they built it for personal use in front of the resort they run on Holmes Beach.

Now they're being told it's not allowed and it needs to be demolished or they'll face a fine.

The couple, who own Angelino's Sea Lodge along the Gulf of Mexico, said they spent $20,000 on the project. They're worried that money will go to waste.

"The word is 'complicated, headache, heartache,' " said Lynn Tran. "I'm not sure what all the rules and processes are. It's very confusing."

Tran and her husband said they're confused because, before building the tree house, they asked for permission and were told none was needed.

"We don't understand that at all," Hazen said. "We made everything strong, according to what they originally told us when I went into their office and asked for a permit."

Hazen said the former Holmes Beach building code inspector told him no permit was required to build the tree house on their property. He told them to just make it safe.

But now the new building inspector said a permit was needed and told the couple the tree house has several violations.

One of the biggest problems, they were told, was it was too close to the water. After getting a survey, they learned it was not.

However, the building inspector said it still needs to come down.

The couple has been told if it does not come down soon, they'll face a $500-a-day fine.

They've hired an attorney to help them fight this. They're also asking the community to sign an on-line petition in support of the tree house. Their website is www.CoolTreeHouse.com.

Holmes Beach city commissioners will meet again Tuesday to discuss the matter.