Shawnee Chasser found a higher standard of living 25 years ago when she moved into a tree house.
Now, she has to come down.
A claustrophobic flower child with purple streaks in her graying curls, Chasser has spent the last year fighting Miami-Dade County over the fate of the wood cottage where she lives, nestled against the forked trunks of an oak and strangler fig in the wooded front yard of her late son’s Biscayne Gardens home.
To Chasser, it’s a suburban Eden preferable to the walls, windows and air conditioning of a house.
But the 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.
“I’m not taking down anything,” Chasser vowed during an interview. “I’ll chain myself to that tree house.”