“It was really anti-trees,” Brennan recalled. “They tried to make it out to the fact that we’re trying to stop religion, which we’re not. We’re just trying to save some trees.”
Just before the preservation board meeting, the church fired its arborist and hired recognized certified arborist Lisa Hammer, who often works with developers. At the meeting, Hammer said she had not had time to familiarize herself fully with the project but pledged to protect the trees. The board approved the church plan without modifications. City officials pledged to closely police construction to make sure the trees were unharmed.
Hammer said she goes to the site periodically to make sure construction is adhering to the city of Miami’s tree protection code, which states there must be protective barriers around tree trunks of at least 10 feet in all directions.
But Brennan and the tree activists note that under widely accepted guidelines of the American National Standards Institute, appropriate protective barriers should be a function of each tree’s age, health and trunk diameter, not a blanket distance for all.
That would mean the trees at Notre Dame d’Haiti need protective barriers that spread out 15 to 30 feet from the tree trunks, they say.
Hammer said that’s just not possible on the tight property.
“In a perfect world, we would love to see that much space around every tree at every site,” Hammer said. “But in an urban setting, very often that’s not feasible.”
Hammer said she believes the trees have a very good chance of surviving, particularly with the installation of WANE units — tubes that are inserted between tree roots to allow them to breathe and collect rain.
“I think that we’ve made the best choices we could make,’’ Hammer said.