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Friday, February 09, 2018

Staving off more Grove tree destruction

Lointer Homes tried to pull a fast one where they are building one of their big white boxy condos on a leafy Coconut Grove street. Neighbors came out in force to ask the HEP Board (Historic and Environmental Preservation Board)  to deny the project as-is because too many trees are being impacted by the development. The plans call for large parts of an old 100 year old live oak tree to be chopped off to accommodate the new condo. Other smaller trees, including two gumbo limbos and a royal poinciana, are slated to be removed and relocated.

The Lointer Homes people have been through a number of arborists, landscape architects and plans trying to get their plans through. The drawings were not accurate and according to those present at the meeting, they were drawn to prejudice the issue and things were left out and almost hidden from the board.

The original plans had a swimming pool, the new plans do not, but instead of the pool, the building is much larger. Parking is underground and covers most of the footprint area, which will effect the long, winding tree roots. There are 12 underground parking spaces as part of the current plan.

The correct plans were not presented at the meeting and it almost looked like a bait and switch as more questions and answers were revealed. Lointer's attorneys and staff are either all less than smart or quite clever. The board felt they were inefficient.

There is a 10 year maintenance bond for protection of the moved live oak. But what does that mean? The developers will be long gone in 10 years. The developers did not approve of the 10 year bond when the city asked them for the 10 year bond and insisted that one year is what is required, so this is another issue that popped up out of the blue at the meeting. They were sort of faking it until they make it at the meeting - coming up with ideas at will so it seemed. Naleeb Campbell, HEP Board member, felt that the developers were not telling the truth. He is the only one who put them on the spot. He is convinced that the current plans for the underground garage will end up killing the roots and in the end killing the live oak tree.

Again, there is a problem with the 10 year bond -- it is a yearly thing, it needs to be renewed each year, but once the condos are sold, the developer would be gone. How would the bond be renewed with the developers long gone? And what happens if the tree dies, what does the bond do?

Board member Hugh Ryan said that the HEP Board should simply go by what the NCD rules and the Grove Tree Ordinance say. What applies or doesn't apply to this project? There seem to be more impact to the trees than the City first had anticipated.

So the developers had a bait and switch plan which was brought up over protests and then a 10 year bond popped up out of the blue.

Why is there an issue at all of moving or cutting a 100 year old live oak tree? Isn't that against the Grove Tree Ordinance?

In the end Board Member Lynn Lewis asked for the issue be brought back in a month when the current plans are available. She felt that the complete aspect of the plans was not present at Tuesday's meeting. Other members agreed. There was a mix-up on purpose or by accident on the part of the developer.

So the plan is to bring back the issue at the next meeting. The HEP Board should have denied the plans at the current meeting, but as usual, the issue will drag on until the developer gets what they want in the end. The HEP Board took up two hours discussing this issue. One day hopefully the City will adhere to its own rules and won't have to discuss issues ad nauseum.

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Blogger madreperla said...

I am beyond furious with these new gigantic box homes that remove 2 small homes and 10+ trees to squeeze in 6 huge homes, and no trees. The streets will suffer as well with a significant traffic increment. Its horrendous, not just architectonically but it totally disrupts the way the streets and the centennial canopies had been organized. I despise those politicians that disregard the best interest of the population which is not to abuse in the footage, print, nor removing canopies, towards a corrput moneymaking machine. This grove fashion needs to stop. NO MORE TREE CUTTING, NO MORE WHITEBOXES.

February 09, 2018 9:32 AM  
Blogger madreperla said...

By the way, I'm speaking about the box homes being built on Coconut Avenue and Virgina, North Grove, but this is happening everywhere. Thanks

February 09, 2018 10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of obnoxious boxes, is there a way to find out if a house (the new one at the corner of Grove and Park) received a variance or built within right? This house at park and grove, a few blocks from where I live, fenced in the area that used to be the public sidewalk, it is the only house on the street where the sidewalk is now set back 5' instead of 10'. It happens to be two blocks from Hermit Russell's house but I'm sure he doesn't care.

February 09, 2018 10:41 AM  
Blogger Laura Wagner said...

You can get a waiver for anything! That sidewalk had a waiver.
I am going to apply for a waiver on my property taxes ;)

February 09, 2018 5:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But you were sooo happy they bought The Bookstore! Even previously posted about this development! Nothing is for free or just being nice!

February 11, 2018 10:50 AM  
Anonymous Carol Lopez-Bethel said...

It is so maddening, because we spend a lot of citizen time at those meetings with P & Z, Commissioners, et al to no avail.
At the HEP meeting we sat and listened to Quatisha Oguntoyinbo-Rashad of the Environmental office that is supposed to protect our trees state that she had no choice but to go along with the developer's request, instead of just saying no you can't do that. She said that her preference would have been to see much less cap and root trimming on the oaks and royal poinciana- and that she agreed to the removal of the royal poinciana because the amount of trimming they wanted to do would likely kill it. So instead of protecting the tree, she would let them take
it down- where is the protection in that?

BTW- the architect for this project is the same one who produced the three monoliths that would have been 3 Avocados, had the neighbors not protested as much as they did and finally got the Commission to deny it. Several trees on that property mysteriously died there, before Hurricane Irma and after surviving over 40 years.

We need to get to the bottom of why City employees feel that they must accommodate the development community to the detriment of existing NCD codes, the tree canopy and the surrounding neighborhood. The Appellant arrived with 59 signatures against the planned project. When will those people be hard and respected?

I saw the project's lawyer in the parking lot after as I was driving out and he said " See you next month". Since he started the conversation I replied " Yes, you will, BTW where do you live?" Answer "Coral Gables" I replied " So I guess you don't have to go through this to protect your neighborhood" As we continued I told him that I duly noted his deflection of the validity of his offer of a 10 year Bond when we both know that no purchaser would be required to renew it and that if the trees are damaged or destroyed because of weakness caused by trimming that even the City thinks is too aggressive, there would be no payout and any payout from the fund would not benefit this property specifically but the program which largely goes to parks, not private property. He smiled and said " I just do my job, I don't hate trees."

We are allowing massive ancient growth trees to be replaced with shrubs. We are allowing developers to leave swimming pools off their plans to get approval, then coming in later and putting them in by amendment and destroying protected trees post construction.

This is not rocket science, let's hold our public servants feet to the fire until they do their job and before Coconut Grove becomes Doral.

February 12, 2018 3:48 PM  

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