Supreme Court won't take Florida couple's tree house dispute
HOLMES BEACH (FOX 13) - It's another disappointment for two Holmes Beach homeowners, fighting to keep a well-known tree house on their property.
It's a fight that made it all the way from the city to the U.S. Supreme Court. But, Monday, the nation's highest court declined to hear their case. Now, it's back to the drawing board for Richard Hazen and Lynn Tran.
"You walk on the beach from our house and it's like, you gotta see the tree house!" said neighbor Leila Minnis.
When visitors pull out their phones, the attraction is not always to the west.
"Pictures, you can Snapchat, you can Instagram," said John Blakemore of Tampa. "It's even better in-person."
"For all of us, it's a little Swiss Family Robinson sort of thing," said Bonnie Wyss who's visiting from Indiana.
Wyss said it was the sight of the tree house that made her book at room at Hazen and Tran's rental property, Angelino's Sea Lodge. This tree house on 29th Street has overlooked the Gulf since 2011. Construction cost $30,000.
"It makes my heart warm to see the smile on people," said Tran.
Tran said they were told, at the time of construction, that they didn't need a permit. But, an anonymous complaint to the city in 2013 changed all that. The city said they didn't expect the tree house to be this big, that it violates numerous city codes, and that it did in fact require a permit.
"We were never against getting a permit in the beginning," Tran said. "It's just that they told us you don't need one and then, we went and tried to get one, and they said you can't have one."
The couple tried petitioning to allow voters to decide. That was denied. And, since 2015, they've faced fines of $50 a day.
"I am sure there are people who don't like it but the majority of the people like it," Tran said.
This tree house dispute climbed its way up the judicial branch, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. A long shot, for sure, considering they only accept about 80 cases out of the thousands they're petitioned with each year. And, not unexpected, Monday, the Court declined to hear the case.
"Well, we love it," Minnis said. "And, we don't want to see it go. So, we are hoping it's not over yet."
Neighbors who heard the news stopped by Monday afternoon to show their support.
"I just think it's a cool place that would make Anna Maria cooler," said Blakemore.
Tens of thousands of dollars later in fines and legal fees, Tran still isn't ready to give up.
"I'm thinking of it going down but part of me is still saying, it can't go down," Tran said. "It gives us joy. And, I think that was the whole thing is, how do you take away something that gives you joy?"
Tran said she plans to go back to the city, and will try again to get a permit, in hopes they'll have a change of heart.
We reached out to the Mayor and all 5 Commissioners. We only got a response from Commissioner John Kihm, who referred us to Mayor Bob Johnson.
Johnson has previously told the Associated Press that the legal battle was "a waste of time."