It is not until July 2013, that the City Code Enforcement Action Report was made available at the Code Board hearing. It is written on the report that on November 15, 2011 an anonymous caller complaint of “A POSSIBLE ILLEGAL STRUCTURE BUILT BEYOND THE COASTAL CONSTRUCTION CONTROL LINE.” It seems that this caller know about coastal construction laws.
In this Report, it is also written “FORBES SPOKE WITH SHAFFER WHO SAID THAT … HE GAVE THE VERBAL OK FOR A TREE HUT TO BE CONSTRUCTED. IT WAS DETERMINED THAT NO PERMIT WOULD BE NEEDED… THEREFORE NO PLANS WERE SUBMITTED… FORBES DETERMINED THE TREE HUT COULD BE CONSIDERED AN “ACCESSORY STRUCTURE”… FORBES WILL CALL STEVE WEST OF THE DEP… TO DETERMINE IF ANY VIOLATION OF DEP REGULATIONS…”
November 29, 2011 – Mr. Steve West from the local Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) came to the tree house. He gave us a Notice of Possible Violation of State Statute Chapter 161 – Beach and Shore Preservation. He also told us to stop work while the tree house is under review. Richard met with Mr. West that day. Richard told me that Mr. West was upset that we didn’t contact him for a State permit before we built, but he left with a smile after he saw the tree house.
A week later, on December 6, 2011, Code Enforcement Officer Dave Forbes sent us a letter. The letter asked for a survey, engineering drawings, and a list of materials use. The letter stated that these are the items that the city will need to consider a “Letter of No Objection”. We had no idea what a “Letter of No Objection” is. I called Mr. Forbes and he explained that it is a letter from the city to submit with the application to FDEP for an after the fact permit with FDEP. The letter has no due date but he told me over the phone as soon as possible.
I immediately engaged a structural engineer and a surveyor. While waiting for the survey and drawings to be completed, I pulled a copy of Chapter 161, Florida Statute from the internet to review of what we might be in violation of.
Building the tree house is not our first encounter with the City’s Building Department. We have resided in Holmes Beach since 1999 and have gone to the Building Department many times for permit and advice. Prior to working with Mr. Shaffer, we worked with another Building Official. This officer would tell us who we need to contact, if we need a builder contractor, what kind of permit we need and what to submit for review. At times, he would also tell us that there is no need for a permit for a minor job, such as ripping off and replacing old carpet with tiles.
We never had problem relying on this expertise in the past, so we assumed that we can rely on Building Official Shaffer’s expertise in building permits and regulations the same way.