TODAY   |  May 30, 2013

Fla. couple fights to save treehouse ‘work of art’

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.

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>>> a bizarre dispute over an elaborate tree house . gabe gutierrez is in florida with that story.

>> reporter: good morning. this is not your ordinary kids' playground. the couple that built this tree house calls it a work of art. the city calls it a safety hazard . and now a major legal battle is underway. on a picture perfect beach not far from sarasota, something else is making waves .

>> it's beautiful.

>> i think it's adorable. it reminds me of swiss family robinson tree house .

>> reporter: unlike that tree house from the movie --

>> watch your footing as you're coming up.

>> reporter: this double decker was dreamt up by richard hazen .

>> it's just a work of love.

>> reporter: he and his wife spent six months and $20,000 building it on their property. it includes glass walls, a staircase and quite a view.

>> it's a place to be with nature and to be one with nature. that's why we built this place.

>> reporter: but now there's trouble in paradise . authorities say this structure doesn't have the proper paperwork. the couple can apply for a special coastal construction permit from the state but the city of holmes beach has to sign off first.

>> i was surprised, i was shocked.

>> reporter: hazen says in 2011 he told the city he planned to build the tree house .

>> they gave us permission in the very beginning. we just went with that.

>> reporter: he claims he got verbal approval but never got it in writing.

>> i just wish we could talk about it and straighten it out.

>> reporter: city officials tell nbc news they're trying to protect a sensitive coastal environment. after a building inspection , the city found the tree house presents a clear and present hazard to the safety of the general public .

>> it is very upsetting. he disputes that saying he consulted with his own engineers.

>> hurricane windows, pressure-treated wood, 12-inch beams.

>> reporter: this unusual tree house is anything but child's play with a legal battle looming, its owner would rather not think about losing his piece of paradise.

>> looking out on the surf, how amazing is this view?

>> i don't know, more than you can believe. just the feeling is just unbelievable. it's exhilarating.

>> reporter: a code enforcement hearing is scheduled for next month, savannah.

>> thank you. didn't we all want a tree house like that as a kid?

>> just a simple one would