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Wednesday, July 08, 2015

The developer destroyed the tree

Regarding that recent tree article about the tree on Loquat Avenue, where neighbors were against neighbors, well it turns out that the developer of the property is at fault for the tree problem. The homeowner does not want the trees removed, the city wants them removed because the developer hat-racked the canopy and destroyed the root system which essentially destroyed the trees, making them dangerous to both the developer and the neighbor. The developer is not a Coconut Grove resident and is using the Grove residents in an attempt to avoid spending tens of thousands of dollars to remove the trees or mitigate them with 30 four foot trees.

A huge septic drain was dug a couple of feet from the trees; they were fined for root pruning and canopy trimming without a permit.

"The result of their disregard for the code and permitting process is that all the weight of the canopies of those trees is hanging over our house, and there is no root system on their side to support the weight. These 60 foot tall trees could topple on our house with any meaningful storm. Also, the way the roots were ripped off with the a backhoe, they have exposed the tree to the rapidly engaging strangler fig disease which will destroy the trees in the next 5 years," says James Klosowski, the offended neighbor.

He went on to say, "
I have to believe that developers and contractors are doing this all over the Grove, destroying the trees by circumventing the permitting process by omission or conniver. The sad outcome for these decades old trees should be used as an example to inspire Groveites to insist on strict compliance with the building code, inspections of the work in progress, and purging the inspection ranks of those who look the other way or collaborate with the developers. Perhaps we need to form a volunteer task force to review the plans for all construction in the Grove to ensure this doesn’t happen the next time an owner with deep pockets and no regard for the neighbors decides to build a spec house. Maybe the developers will get the word."

Here is the site inspection report from John LePage and the City's Planning and Zoning department. There are photos attached, too.

Update: The offending developers are: 
ACR Contractors, Inc., a “Design-Build” group and construction management service company. The owner is Habitus, LLC.

The homeowners and the developers lost their appeal on Tuesday and are now responsible for mitigation and/or fines.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course these trees are magnificent and unique and should not have been harmed. And perhaps the fine was not adequate to deter other developers. Having said all that keep in mind that a newly planted tree CAN flourish and carry on to do an excellent job doing whatever it is that trees do. Jobie Steppe

July 08, 2015 8:17 AM  
Blogger Brant Hadaway said...

I think that we need to reconsider a tree preservation ordinance that is all stick and no carrot. Why not give property owners tax reductions for preserving trees on their property? After all, if someone is forced to maintain a tree for the enjoyment of the surrounding community, is that not a form of taxation?

The tax set-offs could work on a schedule according to the type and age of a tree. For example, an old-growth live oak could command an annual reduction of, say (I'm just picking a number at random, here), $750 per year from the owner's property taxes, and so on. Or, make it a certain percentage of the property taxes owed to the city. That way, someone with a very high property tax bill would feel the same incentive as someone with a low bill.

This will not only provide incentives for property owners to preserve existing trees, but it will encourage them to grow new trees. The current law discourages tree planting.

No doubt I will be assailed by the usual suspects for proposing such a heretical idea. But really, has the current system worked?

July 08, 2015 10:59 AM  
Anonymous Ken Russell said...

Hi Brant,
I think your idea is a good one. I'm a big advocate of incentives that steer behavior instead of punishments that don't really deter.

I have been working on a green rating system for properties based on the amount of green space that is left on the property as well as the number and size of trees that exist. This would be a voluntary system that would be organized by the city and available to be used on the MLS and by developers. I have met with Bob Brennan to figure out the best way to measure and quantify the trees. The end result would be that two houses that are otherwise the exact same square footage would have different perceived values if one had a higher green rating (more large trees and green space preserved).

This would give value and incentive to leave trees and green space during development. Right now, developers make their money on price per developed square foot. Of course this means they are incentivized to maximize the footprint of the structure and clear cut trees. Give them a quantifiable reason to leave trees and the trees have a better shot.

the current existing penalties are a small cost of business for the developers and a revenue source for the city.

July 08, 2015 1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fine needs to be multiplied by 100 to have any effect at all on those companies. Developers don't ask permission, it's cheaper just to say sorry and pay the fine. They've done what they wanted.

These are bad people - intentionally doing bad things.

PS. Jobie - You do realize that you cannot replace an aged tree, right? Like a lot of trees take a lifetime or more to mature. Please be less simple-minded.

July 08, 2015 3:54 PM  
Anonymous Jack said...

Is there only 1 architect designing the houses in the West Grove? Basically they all look the same. White monsters. perhaps the developers could hire architects who design houses to work around the trees on a property instead of "ripping them all out"

July 08, 2015 4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 3:54 1`st U a coward! Second, Brazil is embarking on a "Simple Minded" program to plant new tree life in one of the largest rain forest on planet earth. Additionally I did not say a new tree could replace an aged tree, I infer let's do the best we can by planting a new tree. U dim witted. Jobie Steppe

July 08, 2015 6:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out the two identical houses on South Bayshore across from Mercy Hospital. The developer whacked multiple trees. Not to mention that he's squeezing three houses onto what once was a single family site. It will be interesting to see how the property is replenished,

July 09, 2015 4:31 PM  

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