Coconut Grove

Coconut Grove

Coconut Grove neighbors worked up about health of old oak tree

Coconut Grove residents are upset over what they see as a homeowner's recent disregard for his trees.

An oak tree on the 1900 block of Tigertail Avenue has turned brown and lost leaves in the last couple months. As of a week ago, the leaves were brown and sparse. It may also be in shock, because a portion of the roots were cut during construction, according to Ron Nelson, chief of staff for Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who represents the Grove.

Though there is no confirmation whether the tree is dead, some residents believe that owner Francisco Cabreja may have poisoned the tree.

Kitty Terry lived across the street from the house and said that the tree's health declined rapidly, though oak trees can often take years to die.

"It was alive a month ago," Terry said.

She has recently moved to Coral Gables, though says that it was not a result of her anger over the trees.

Cabreja said wants to keep the tree, though he says that the city suggested he cut it down because it was in the way.

"I've been fighting to keep that tree alive," Cabreja said.

He said that he was worried about the tree’s condition and consulted an arborist, who will keep tending to the oak.

Cabreja has cut down two trees on his property, for which he received permits and must mitigate by planting new trees to replace the old ones.

"We complied with all of the rules and regulations of the city and these folks simply did not accept that," he said.

The tree is in front of the house’s garage door, though the plans should not have been approved, said Nelson. A tree survey must be done of any property requesting building permits, and the garage door was in a different place in the original plans. In a later version, the garage door was moved. Those plans were taken to the building department for approval, but the tree survey was not consulted.

In an email thread to several dozen people, Nelson explained that there was nothing more the city could do.

"It appears that this person is willing to break the rules and pay the fines in order to get what he wants," Nelson said in the email. "We cannot stop him if that is his intent."

There have been several other violations tied to the house, including not installing a protective barrier around the trees during construction, Nelson said.

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