Holmes Beach city hearing on controversial tree house - WFLA News Channel 8

Holmes Beach city hearing on controversial tree house

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The future of a Holmes Beach tree house was in question on Tuesday.

It's a story we've been telling you about for months.

A couple built an elaborate beach side tree house only to later learn they violated building codes.

So on Tuesday, the Code Enforcement Board held a hearing.

The members ruled the tree house was built in a spot that violated the erosion control line, and at this time they have not decided on what the next step should be.

The meeting started at 10am and it was a quasi-judicial hearing that lasted the whole day.

It played out like a trial.

In the hearing, the city played a role of plaintiff and the tree house owners were the defendants.

Here's the background- two years ago, Richard Hazen and his wife Lynn Tran say they got verbal permission from a now retired building official to construct a tree house at their home.

After learning no permits were needed, they built an elaborate two-story tree house and were later told the building violated building codes.

On Tuesday a city attorney said the tree house not only violated numerous codes, but the couple did not go through the proper review process to build the structure. The city attorney also said the tree house presented a hazard during a storm.

The attorney for the tree house owners argued the city's permit laws are vague and city officials have not gone on site to properly inspect the tree house before lodging a complaint.

One of the witnesses who took the stand was the now-retired building department official, Robert Schaffer.

He is the man Richard Hazen spoke to get permission for the tree house.

Schaffer said he simply told Hazen there were no city codes regarding tree houses and left it at that.

He was shocked to learn what was later built.

Schaffer said, "I had never seen it with my own eyes yet. I had not visited the site, I never went by it. After seeing what was built, I thought, 'oh boy, did I goof up here maybe.' Did I maybe make a mistake here? But then I realized I did not give them any permission to build this thing, so I didn't feel at fault."

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