Couple fighting to save 2-story dream tree house
MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (NBC) -- A Holmes Beach, Fla. couple wants to finish building the tree house of their dreams, but now the city is telling them to tear it down.
The two story structure is found on an Australian pine tree off Avenue E in Holmes Beach.
And it seems this whole spat is the result of miscommunication.
Richard Hazen and Lynn Tran's tree house is not one you would normally find in any back yard.
It's two stories tall, complete with a hammocks and a perfect view of the Gulf of Mexico.
The couple wanted a cozy spot to relax and get away, and this tree was the perfect solution.
"We take naps up here, a glass of wine, watch the sunset," said Hazen.
In April 2011, Hazen asked a city building official for permission to build a tree house, and they were told no permits were required.
Tran said, "[The building official said:] Just go ahead, make it safe so no one falls out."
But a few weeks ago, a code enforcement officer sent a notice saying the tree house violates building codes and is dangerous to the public.
In the violation notice, the city says they may have been misled into believing that this was supposed to be some kid's tree house.
Hazen said, "I have no son, I never said I had a son, and I don't plan to have a son."
In the letter, Code Enforcement Officer David Forbes wrote, "To be frankly blunt, if you did not receive a written response to a detailed submittal then no approval can be inferred from a casual conversation."
The letter says if the couple doesn't comply or tear down by Wednesday, they could be fined up to $500 a day.
"I can't afford to give them $500," said Hazen.
Tran said, "Somebody would probably say ignorance is not an excuse, but honestly when they say ‘no permits required', how many people ask for paperwork when they say ‘no permits required'?"
The couple already spent $20,000 on the project but the city says that doesn't matter, it was built illegally so it must come down.
Hazen and his wife has started an online petition to save it and it's already collected almost 300 signatures.