Told Treehouse Must Go, Pair Appeals to Supreme Court

Florida couple takes fight with local authorities to a much higher power
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 7, 2018 7:03 AM CST
Told Treehouse Must Go, Pair Appeals to Supreme Court
Lynn Tran and husband Richard Hazen pose in their Australian pine treehouse Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, in Holmes Beach, Fla. The couple is hoping the Supreme Court will hear their case after city and state officials ordered the treehouse removed.   (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen built a Florida beachfront treehouse that would be the envy of any child. It's got two levels, hammocks, and windows looking out on the Gulf of Mexico. But the hangout has cost the couple a handsome sum: about $30,000 to construct and probably five times that in legal fees as they've fought local authorities over it. Now, they're at their last stop, the Supreme Court. Unless the high court intervenes, the treehouse must be torn down. The justices first considered taking the case at a closed-door conference Friday, reports the AP, and a decision on whether they will weigh in could come Monday. The couple's lawyer acknowledges the case is unlikely to be accepted by the justices, but argues that his clients' rights were violated when a Florida court "rubber stamped" a ruling proposed by the city of Holmes Beach without any evidence of independent consideration.

"Part of me still believes there's got to be justice out there and we didn't do anything wrong," Tran says. Before they began constructing the treehouse around an Australian Pine on their property in 2011, Hazen asked the city whether they needed a permit. The answer: No. Soon, however, the city got a complaint. After an investigation, the city found the couple did need to go through the permitting process, and that the treehouse is in an area where building is prohibited because of a city setback. Holmes Beach Mayor Bob Johnson calls the continued legal wrangling "quite honestly a waste of time." "For some reason these people have this fixation on it." The couple are accumulating a $50 a day fine for not taking down the treehouse, a fine that's now tens of thousands of dollars. Tran says she's afraid to think about it. "It's kind of fun to have around," she said. If the treehouse ultimately has to go, there's a lurking irony for the couple. To take down the structure, they'll need a city permit.

(More treehouse stories.)

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