Looking back to the Winter of 2011 local news clip and the code enforcement document, it stated that an anonymous person call, but nothing specific is written about the nature of the call. Is the call to inquire about a permit to build a tree house? Is the call a complaint? Does the caller live in our neighborhood? May be the caller cannot believe that it is possible to build with no permit legally. May be the caller has a beef with something. May be the caller just want to know if he or she could also build one without permit as it is pretty cool. We’ll never find out who the caller is but we know that whenever we placed a call to City Hall to report a nuisance, the City always asked for our name and phone number.
People whine about over-regulations, but when they found out that the City Building Official said “there are no codes for tree houses and no permit required as he thought it’s a small child’s tree house.” Some are not happy. What do you mean there are no codes and no permit? You need a permit for “Everything!”… the laws said so.
Mr. Shaffer quoted the Merriam Webster dictionary: “a tree house is a small house that is built among the branches of a tree for children to play in.” The City said “It’s not a small child’s tree house!”. The City libeled it as an illegal elaborate three-story tree house.
We show that our tree house is a two level viewing deck in a tree, more like a Tiki hut in a tree. It’s not a house, it’s definitely NOT a three-story house in a tree. It has no utilities. It looks impressive as the tree is a giant more than 80 feet tall and span more than 30 feet wide. But the deck is just 250 square feet each and with the tree branches going through, the usable square feet is less than 200. It’s just for us to meditate, nap, yoga, enjoy our privacy and the beautiful views.
In his testimony at the Code Board hearing, Mr. Shaffer said that he didn’t ask Richard for what kind of tree house we would build. When asked “What, to you, is a tree house?” Mr. Shaffer answered: “Well, at that time, I pictured what I built in trees: A few boards or whatever I could find to rummage together to put a stand of some kind in the tree. And I built some, some pretty, may be sophisticated deer stands in Pennsylvania when I hunted up there and so forth…”
If you search for “legal definition of tree house” on Google. You find it can be spelled treehouse or tree house. A simple definition is a structure built among the limbs of a tree from the Free Dictionary or a small child’s play house in a tree from Merriam Webster Dictionary. The most contemporary and comprehensive definition is from Wikipedia: “Tree houses or tree forts are platforms or buildings constructed around, next to or among the trunk or branches of one or more mature trees while above ground level. Tree houses can be used for recreation, work space, habitation, observation or as temporary retreats…. The tree house has been central to various environmental protest communities around the world, in a technique known as tree sitting.”
In contrast, the definition of Land Development according to the Business Dictionary is: “Conversion of raw land into construction ready housing, commercial, or industrial building sites. Land development process involves improvements that have indefinite life, such as draining, dredging, excavating, filling, grading, paving, etc.”
From Wikipedia, Land development refers to altering the landscape in any number of ways such as:
- Changing landforms from a natural or semi-natural state for a purpose such as agriculture or housing
- Subdividing real estate into lots, typically for the purpose of building homes
- Developing property or changing its purpose, for example by converting an unused factory complex into condominium.
Our tree house is not land development. It is a structure not clearly defined in either the City of Holmes Beach Land Development Code, the various City Codes of Ordinance, nor in the Florida Statute and Codes. So which law books and which legal structure apply to our tree house? Is it an accessory structure, a substructure, a recreation facility, a minor construction, a minor structure or a non-habitable major structure? Enough definitions for now.
Until next article, enjoy my collage of various tree houses from small to large. Each is unique and an artistic expression of the builder owner. Think of the wonders that people have created when there were little to no rules.