“They’re not here for my protection.
They’re here for my money.
I would never live in a treehouse.”
The basic conveniences of modern life—you know, windows, running water, privacy, that sort of thing—are high on my list of wants when choosing where to live.
I would especially never live in a treehouse in Florida. Life among the mosquitoes and alligators would be bad enough, but can you imagine trying to go to sleep on a summery evening without air conditioning? I tremble at the very thought.
But a 65-year-old Florida grandma named Shawnee Chasser evidently disagrees. Chasser has lived happily in a treehouse in her son’s yard for 25 years. “When I am up in my tree house in thunder, lightning and rain, I am in heaven,” Chasser says of her living space. “There’s nothing nicer, more spiritual, more wonderful.” (It sounds like she might be claustrophobic, so hey, whatever floats her boat.)
Unfortunately, Miami-Dade County, which is where Chasser’s treehouse grows, doesn’t take that laissez-faire approach:
[T]he county says the open-air chateau was built illegally, is unsafe and must be demolished in the next four months. Chasser — who once marched from California to D.C. as part of an anti-nuclear arms protest — says that will never happen, setting up an only-in-Miami showdown between a $7 billion government and a 65-year-old grandmother who sells bags of organic popcorn at Whole Foods. […]
The cottage, which can’t be seen from the street, is off to the south side of “Shawnee’s Paradise,” on the corner of Be Here Now Street and Joshua’s Way, an ode to her late son, who died inside his house in 2009 of a heart attack. The property — recently featured by the Tiny House Giant Journey travel blog — is just under a half-acre of wooded lawn stretched around a man-made pond and waterfall and hiding from its surroundings behind a hedge.
The trouble started because Chasser rents her property to visitors and campers—she does it through AirBNB—who share her philosophy on life. Someone complained to the county about Chasser’s rental habits, and that’s what drew the government scrutiny that now threatens to destroy her home.
So far, Miami-Dade County has fined her $3,000 and is threatening to fine her about $7,000 if she doesn’t stop the apparently terrible crime of peacefully living on her family’s property and letting other people pay money to visit.
Chasser has vowed to fight the county to the bitter end, in part because there’s no way she can afford to comply with their absurd demands:
“They’ve given me four months to bring it up to code or demolish it,” she told The Washington Post in a phone interview. (The Miami Herald reported that, at the end of August, she was given three months to bring it to code.)
Added Chasser: “I would need $150,000 to make all the changes they want.”
She doesn’t have $150,000, though. In fact, the county’s fines thus far have left her “totally broke.”
Of course, the county government argues it’s only going after Chasser for her own safety. But Chasser isn’t buying it.
“They’re pretending it’s because they care about my safety, [but] I’m 65 years old. I can keep myself safe,” she said. “They’re not here for my protection. They’re here for my money.”
Given her 25 years of successful treehouse residency to date, that’s a hard argument to refute.