So many good advices, but we need to make sure that everything follows the rules of laws from this point on so we can clear this illegal accusation. I spent hours studying the cited statute and codes, praying that our attorney can help save our tree house. Chapter 161 is the Florida law not only for coastal protection, beach erosion control, beach nourishment and restoration. It is also the law for coastal construction. Authorized by this statute, the Department of Environmental Protection develops administrative codes and processes to regulate and enforce this law.
It is written in Section 161.053 (14) that the City shall notify the applicant of the requirements for state permits and shall notify FDEP within 5 days after receipt of any application for construction seaward of a coastal construction line. So now we know that there is a line that the state has established along all coastal land. If your property is seaward of that line, it can get pretty complicated.
The statute allows FDEP to delegate some permitting activities to the coastal city or county. We do not know to what extent FDEP had delegated to our city building official in 2011, nor what the coordination process between the city and the state was. We just figured that the city reports to FDEP regularly with all the activities on the beach, just like our commissioners going to city hall and talk to city building department of what’s going on in the city weekly.
This state statute does not have specific definition for a tree house, but in Section 161.54 Definitions, it categorizes and defines all structures into categories. Of interest to us is the “Minor structure” category, defined as “pile-supported, elevated dune and beach walkover structures; …; pile-supported, elevated viewing platforms, gazebos, …; lifeguard support stands; …. ornamental garden structures, and other ornamental construction.” Our tree house structure is both tree and pile-supported elevated viewing platforms. It is ornamental in our private beach garden. It looks like a gazebo or a hut or a life guard stand with a roof deck.
On February 10, 2012, our attorney responded with a written letter to FDEP. He wrote that our tree house, built like a viewing deck, could qualify as a “minor activity” and exempt from the permitting requirements according to Section 161.053 (11)(c), which states “the department may establish exemptions for minor activities not to have an adverse effect on the coastal system.”
The list of “minor activities” that are exempt from permit requirements in Section 161.053 and Administrative Code 62B-33.004 include minor structures which do not cause an adverse impact on the coastal system and do not cause a disturbance to any significant or primary dune” and “any other minor construction that has an effect similar.”
Now we know the applicable state laws and codes, the coastal control line and the exemptions for minor structure. Next we wait for FDEP to review our attorney’s opinion of the laws, whether our tree house qualifies as a minor structure, and clarification from the state as to what beach dunes if any were impacted by the tree house.
Examples of beach gazebos in Florida