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Holmes Beach Treehouse: Creativity vs Bureaucracy

Islands seem to hold extraordinary potential for small matters with simple solutions to become blown way out of proportion to what they merit.

Does this sound familiar? Homeowner wants to know if a permit is needed to build a freestanding structure on his property. Building official advises verbally that no permit is required. Homeowner builds the structure. City cites homeowner for not having a permit. Then says the verbal OK was not adequate.

Have you ever heard of a city issuing a document certifying that no building permit is required for a structure? I don’t think I have.

You can find the story of this awesome beach tree house at

You can also sign their petition to help pressure the City of Holmes Beach to find a way to let the tree house stand.

I visited the tree house and shot the video above and the photos below. The tree house blends right into the shoreline and is a wonderfully creative addition to the island.

Holmes Beach treehouseHolmes Beach treehouse

Holmes Beach tree house location

Here you can see the location of the tree house, circled in green.

I think the tree house is very well designed and is an attractive addition to the shoreline. The City of Holmes Beach is arguing that the structure violates “setback” requirements and or is too close to the erosion control line. This seems to mean that the tree house is located either too close to the neighbors property, or too close to the beach and dune.

Private Holmes Beach tree house vs County-built tree house

Here’s a comparison of the private tree house and the tree house built by Manatee County on Holmes Beach which serves a a lifeguard tower. It’s enough to make the lifeguards jealous!

So what do you think? Shouldn’t there be a simple way that this misunderstanding can be cleared up to make both the city officials happy and let the tree house stand?

LEGAL UPDATE from the treehouse owners:

In mid-October (2014), we took a leap of faith.  We filed our legal petition, called a Writ of Certiorari, with the higher court, the Second District Court of Appeal, where our case will reviewed by a panel of multiple experienced judges.  The higher court does not automatically accept to review every petition filed, so we were highly anxious.

On November 3rd, the District Court of Appeal ordered the city to respond to the issues raised in the writ of certiorari by November 24th.  Following the city’s response, we will have 20 days to reply.  So we now have hope and a chance to be heard by the higher court. Read more at the website.