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HOLMES BEACH, Florida -- It's a structure straight out of the imagination, eight feet up a giant Australian Pine tree on Anna Maria Island.

"This is what took us six months to build," said a very proud Richard Hazen, climbing up the steps into his labor of love.

Two years ago, it was the tree right out Richard and his wife Lynn's back window that inspired them to build the overgrown fort. Richard said he made a special trip to city hall to find out what permits he might need, but was told they didn't need one.

"Came back here and said, 'Great! Green light, let's go!'"

Richard got to work, spending $20,000 on the fort complete with cement reinforced pilings made to look like real wood and hurricane proof glass to withstand the strongest storms. The two-story tree house quickly became an attraction, with people from all over coming to see and take pictures.

"It is so cool," said John Powell, visiting from Indianapolis. "It's just one of a kind!"

But state environmental officials also took notice, claiming Richard and Lynn's tree house was actually built 10 feet too close to the water.

The state said they'd give the couple an exemption if the city signed off, but when Richard went back to the building department, the guy who originally gave him the okay was gone, and the new administrator ordered the structure be destroyed or face a $500 a day fine.

"For somebody to tear this down is beyond my comprehension," said Hazen. "It's like tearing my heart out of my chest."

The family is appealing the decision, starting an online petition for supporters to sign.

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10 News attempted contacting the city building department and the mayor of Holmes Beach, but did not receive a phone call back Monday afternoon.

For now, Richard and Lynn say they will enjoy each and every sunset while they can, unsure of what is in store for their dream tree house on the beach.

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