Little Haiti church tree removal permit appealed

Little Haiti’s landmark church, Notre Dame D’Haiti, is trying to move forward with its plans to build a new church after it was denied permits to remove several oak trees on the property, delaying construction for months.

The Historic and Environmental Preservation Board will be discussing an appeal to the church's permit today (Sept. 4) at 3 p.m. in the Miami City Hall.

According to an email from Shorecrest resident Judith Hancock Sandoval, the church now wants to try to get approval to remove three oak trees and resume construction. Notre Dame Pastor Rev. Reginald Jean-Mary was not available to confirm details on the church’s appeal.

Sandoval writes that no matter the number of trees removed, if cement roadways, paths and parking cover the roots of the trees, it would prevent them from being watered “thus killing them and achieving the church's original purpose to build on and pave over the entire property.”

The trees' removal had sparked opposition from other residents like Sandoval and community associations.

"Who in their right mind would think that it’s okay to cut down trees that are 150 years old in a neighborhood that’s the oldest neighborhood in the city of Miami?” said Bob Powers, Palm Grove Neighborhood Association president.

From his part, Rev. Jean-Mary had said that there are dozens of oak trees on the church’s property, on 130 N.E. 62nd St., that will not be affected by the project and they need the new building to accommodate more parishioners.

“People have a right to contest it, the environment belongs to everyone. We care about the environment,” Jean-Mary said. “But people in the church are sitting under the sun, the rain because we don’t have a place to put them. This is an injustice.”

Peter Kosinski, an architect on the church project, had said the site plan was designed to save as many oak trees as possible, however the city’s requirement for the church to build a new parking lot, and to turn the current paved lot into a lawn area required the removal of some trees.

In July, the City of Miami declined the church’s permit to remove 11 trees where the new church and parking lot will stand.

At the time, Sergio Guadix, City of Miami code director, said the permit was rejected because out of 11 trees proposed for removal, seven are considered to be live specimen oak trees, meaning the trees are more than 24 inches in diameter.

“We feel oak trees over 18 inches in diameter have historical value to an area and if they can be saved we want to save them,” he said.

Open Media Miami will update the story with the HEP’s decision after the meeting.

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