Realtor.com quoted me in Woman Can’t Live in Her Treehouse Even Though It’s Quite Posh (Take a Look!). It opens,
Most people live in houses, but Shawnee Chasser prefers her tree. In fact, the 65-year-old has been living in her custom-made abode between the forked trunks of an oak and fig tree on her late son’s half-acre property in Biscayne Gardens, FL, for the past 24 years. Hey, if it makes her happy, who cares, right?
Well, it turns out county officials do care, since they’ve deemed the treehouse to be unsafe. They’ve told Chasser to tear the structure down, but she’s flat-out refused—sparking a flurry of commentary nationwide about a controversial topic: How much control do we really have over where and how we live, anyway?
Chasser, at least, believes she has a right to stay put in her treetop chateau—a surprisingly spacious two-story place with a double bed and kitchenette complete with a tiny oven and sink. There’s even a small couch often occupied by Coonie, her pet raccoon.
“I’m not taking anything down,” Chasser told the Miami Herald. “I’ll chain myself to that tree house.” (But what about Coonie?)
Part of a land trust run by Chasser’s daughter, the property also has a cottage and minicamper, but Chasser prefers to rent those out. She also lets people pitch tents on the land to make extra cash to supplement her organic popcorn business.
About a year ago, someone called 311 to complain that Chasser was running the property like a hippie apartment complex. That’s when county code enforcement swung by and issued her a citation for illegally renting out the land, as well as living in a treehouse.
County officials concede that if the treehouse had been built with the proper permits and safety standards, there would be no problem. But, well, it wasn’t. And in an area prone to hurricanes, Chasser is endangering her own life, as well as her guests, officials claim.
As a result, Chasser has paid $3,000 in fines and could face an additional $7,000 in liens. She says she doesn’t have the money to hire engineers to rebuild or retrofit her treehouse to get it up to code, and has filed an appeal.
Although she has plenty of sympathizers, real estate experts are split over the treehouse tumult.
“The government has broad authority to regulate our daily lives in order to protect the health and safety of the people living under it,” insists David Reiss, research director at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School. “The fact that someone has been able to operate under the radar does not give them a pass once the government has identified a violation of zoning and building codes.”