Eleven trees on Commodore Plaza will be removed as planned. The Historic and Environmental Preservation Board voted 5-0 on Friday to deny an appeal to reconsider the removal.
The tree removal is part of plan by the city’s Capital Improvements Program and the Coconut Grove Business Improvement District to renovate the sidewalks in the Center Grove. The city argued that the trees slated to be removed are unhealthy and in decline or hazardous.
Coconut Grove TreeWatch appealed the permit out of concern for the canopy in the Grove. Liliana Dones of TreeWatch said she was hoping the board would have at least required that certain size trees be used for replacement, as opposed to the current requirement of largest commercially available at the time of planting. She has also said that the new trees will take many years to provide the same size canopy as is there now.
That concern was echoed by Alexander Mintz, 15, who said “My kids won’t even see these trees grow up.”
Grove resident Cary Aronovitz also spoke on behalf of the opposition, saying that hundreds of people have breakfast lunch and dinner under one of the trees that lines the sidewalk in front of Green Street Café— a tree the city said is dangerous, though there are no warnings of the danger for restaurant patrons that sit in its shade.
Another issue the city noted, though insisted was not the reason for the tree removal, was that tree roots lift up the brick pavers of the sidewalks causing some people to trip and fall. David Collins, the former director of the BID, was wearing a large bandage on his head saying he tripped on the bricks near Green Street and that he had a concussion. To address the root of the problem, the city will be installing a technology called “Silva Cells,” large crate-like structures that direct tree roots to grow down.
Albert Sosa, the city’s director of capital improvements, said that he feels the project is “a good succession plan” that allows “for a good mix of different age [trees] of different maturities.”
Board members Hugh Ryan, Robert Grabosky, Gary Hecht, William Hopper and Jorge Kuperman voted to deny the appeal, allowing the plan to move forward. Board member Gerald Marston recused himself. Board members Timothy Barber, David Freedman, and Lynn Lewis were absent.