Holmes Beach tree house owners to face fines - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

Holmes Beach tree house owners to face fines

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The Holmes Beach Code Enforcement Board The Holmes Beach Code Enforcement Board

The Holmes Beach Code Enforcement Board has decided to fine the owners of a tree house $100 a day.

Richard Hazen and his wife Lynn Tran built a two story tree house on their beachside property after getting verbal permission from a city building official.

But city officials later told the couple their tree house violated building codes and should be either moved, demolished, or subject to fines.

The two-story tree house has captured international attention, and local scrutiny.

Two years ago, the owners built the structure after getting verbal permission from a city official.

But since then, the city's code enforcement board ruled the tree house violated numerous building codes. Officials say it's too close to the water and was built on an Australian pine, which is not considered to be a strong tree.

So on Thursday, the code enforcement board held a penalty hearing.

City Attorney Jim Dye said, "If you decide to impose a fine, it's the best way to get the property's owner's attention to say we take these things seriously."

The couple's attorney had previously filed an appeal in circuit court, but the board decided to move on anyway. So on Thursday the board ruled to fine the couple $100 dollars a day.

Tree house owner Lynn Tran said to the board, "Fining us and taking us to court is not helping. The goal of the government is to help us, people like us. We rely on your instructions."

The couple feels the city is forcing them to tear the tree house down, since it is impossible to relocate it and bring it into compliance.

They want to see if there's some way they can come to terms with the board to make it safer and leave it where it is.

"It's too late to go back!" said Tran. "We understand code, we want to follow code, we never violated any code. We were misled into the wrong direction. We want to fix this, show us how!"

The tree house owners were very emotional after the announcement was made, but they're not going to give up the fight just yet.

Their attorney is filing a motion in circuit court to stop the city from issuing fines.

The decision isn't expected to come down for another few weeks.

And until that decision is made, the owners do not plan to pay a penny.

Tran said, "If it gets to be too heavy of a fine and we lose in court then that will be a sad day for us."

The couple has already spent around $90,000 in construction costs and legal fees, and they don't know how much longer they can go.


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