Uprooted from home.
A Florida grandma is being forced to tear down the treehouse she has been living in for almost two decades after she accumulated $40,000 in fines from the county over code violations and concerns it was “unsafe.”
Shawnee Chasser, 72, of Miami has resided on the same property in North Miami for 17 years where she built a home in a large tree fully equipped with a kitchen and living room on the ground.
“I’ve always lived outdoors. For me, it’s the only way to live,” Chasser told 7News Miami. “I have to hear the rain and the wind at night. If I don’t, I go crazy, and I’m claustrophobic.”
Chasser initially bought the property for her son and she moved into the treehouse when he died, according to CBS News Miami.
While she has enjoyed being outside and in the trees, Chasser’s neighbors weren’t as thrilled, reporting the property to the Miami-Dade County and the Building Code Enforcement Department in 2015.
The code enforcers found the treehouse wasn’t safe to live in and asked the grandma of two to either take it down or bring it up to code.
She was fined $11,320.00 and $11,481.50 in one day for violating Chapter 33 of Florida law (zoning) and “unauthorized use within a single-family residential district,” according to a GoFundMe set up by Chasser.
Chasser didn’t comply with the orders and has accumulated roughly $40,000 in fines from the county over the past 8 years.
“It’s always in the back of my head. Half the time I don’t sleep,” Chasser said. “I don’t need to lose sleep over that. I can lose sleep over other things.”
Over time, Chasser has built additions to her property, which now features her original bedroom up in the tree, a kitchen and living room on the ground, a pool, a water fountain and her new bedroom she built inside a Tiki hut last year.
“My legs are very bad, so I built the Tiki hut thinking I’ll be in it forever and ever,” she told the outlet, “And if you look at it, it’s the most beautiful bedroom in the whole world.”
Chasser said she was done fighting and decided to begin the process of tearing down the structures on Sept. 18.
“I’m not a fighter, you know? I fought against the Vietnam War,” she said. “I’m done fighting, and I just want peace.”
Moving indoors isn’t an option for Chasser.
“She cannot live indoors and needs to live close to the earth and in alignment with her beliefs,” the GoFundMe said. “A person should not be punished for this way of living, it should be celebrated.”
Chasser, instead, will remain outdoors, but her next dwelling will be up to code which will cost her $30,000, according to CBS Miami, on top of the other expenses she has already made.
“Contractor $2000.00, Architect $2500.00, Lawyer $2500.00, Seminole Bloodline Certificate $800.00, Repairs and kitchen tare down $10,000.00, New Home structure $5,000, to allow tare down of old treehouse,” the GoFundme listed.
Miami-Dade County told CBS Miami it hasn’t taken any action to tear down the treehouse and is trying to work to get the property up to code.