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Town says $20,000 treehouse is a hazard, not a haven

May 30, 2013 at 9:08 AM ET

Video: Richard Hazen calls the double-decker treehouse he and his wife built on their property “a work of love” but Holmes Beach, Fla., officials are calling it a safety hazard and are demanding the $20,000 structure be taken down. NBC”s Gabe Gutierrez reports.

A Florida couple had more than child’s play in mind when they built their two-story beachfront treehouse.

Richard Hazen calls the $20,000 home “a work of love.” His wife, Lynn Tran, said it fosters serenity.

“It’s a place to be with nature and to be one with nature. That’s why we built this place,” she said in a segment that aired Thursday on TODAY.

But local authorities claim the home threatens a “sensitive coastal environment” and want the home torn down. The city of Holmes Beach also says the couple failed to get written consent for the structure before building it.

Hazen admits he never got anything in writing, but insists he received verbal approval when he spoke to city officials in 2011.

“They gave us permission in the very beginning, so we just went with that,” he said. “I just wish we could talk about it and then straighten it all out.”

The couple can apply for a special coastal construction permit from the state, but Holmes Beach must sign off first. That could be difficult, since city building inspectors who examined the treehouse say it “presents a clear and present hazard to the safety of the general public.”

Hazen disputes those findings, pointing to his own engineers, who have ensured its safety.

“We got hurricane brackets, hurricane windows, pressure treated wood, 12-inch beams,” he said.

The legal fracas remains on hold until next month, when a code enforcement hearing is scheduled. Until then, the treehouse remains an amazing sight for locals and visitors alike.

“I think it’s adorable,” said tourist Laureen Edelstein. “It reminds me of the Swiss Family Robinson tree house.”

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