Our small tree house wood frame deck with a roof viewing deck has less than 250 square feet of usable space. The tree is on our property. But some say it is a three-story tree house as if it is a big 3000 square feet multistory home. Some say it is on the beach while in fact it is on our property, just beachfront. Some are afraid that we set a trend and they don’t want more tree houses lining the beach. One man even told us to remove the tree house or move to the Mekong Delta.
We received advice from local professionals to complete the permit’s application for the tree house as a “Non-habitable major structure”. Per Statute 161.54, this term means swimming pools, parking garages, pipelines, piers, canals; ditches… water retention structures, water and sewage treatment plants, electrical power plants and all related structures, roads, bridges, highways and underground storage. Clearly our tree house does not qualify under this definition.
Then the debate that our small tree house is a “major structure”, thus we should apply as such. Statute 161.54 defines “Major structure” as houses, mobile homes, apartment buildings, condominiums, motels, hotels, restaurants, towers… other construction having the potential for substantial impact on coastal zones. A house is “a building in which a family lives by Merriam Webster definition.” Our tree house was not built as a house or a single family dwelling or a commercial building of any kind.
So we stick with our attorney’s advice, first we need to complete the study to show that our tree house or tree viewing deck, as a minor structure, does not cause a measurable impact to the natural functioning of the coastal system before we apply for exemption from permit requirements or apply for permit with request for waivers. This is the most logical choice as we recalled that back in December of 2011, the Department stated to the press that the Department was looking into exemption and wrote to us that the tree house may not qualify for an after-the-fact permit.
It took us over a week to locate and engage an experienced professional coastal engineer to perform the study. With a busy schedule, we could not schedule a qualified engineer on site to complete the study within the 21 days, so we requested the Agency for an extension to complete the study. Extension of time was granted. Now we wait for the study coming up next to understand what is a measurable impact to the natural functioning of the coastal system?
It is not who is right, but what is right, that is of importance.”
— Thomas Huxley, scientist