Published Fri., Aug. 17, 2012
By THEO KARANTSALIS
The Miami Herald
On a short, scenic stretch of road that hugs Biscayne Bay, neighbors in Brickell have taken sides about whether a row of mature trees should be cut down.
The feud ended Friday morning when a homeowners association withdrew its request to remove a row of mature black olive trees.
“Without your help, in a few days, the residents of Brickell Bay Drive will lose 22 mature black olive trees that line our sidewalk from 14th to 15th Streets,” read a fluorescent green flier stapled to every tree, post and fence along the street.
The flier urges those opposed to the tree removals to “immediately” contact Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who represents Brickell.
“The commissioner strongly objects to the removal of the trees,” said William Plasencia, a spokesperson for Sarnoff. “As of Aug. 15, I have received 198 emails in my inbox about this matter.”
A group of residents on that block came to a consensus that the trees should be removed and then filed with the city to do so, according to Plasencia.
But as part of the process, there had to be public notice, so the city’s Public Works Department posted notices on trees. Calls to the listed number by the Miami Herald were referred to the city’s press office which did not comment.
“There has been a lot of miscommunication about this matter between neighbors,” said Joaquin Perez, an officer with the Point View Association which governs seven nearby buildings. “We requested to replace the trees with something more uniform and less destructive for the area.”
Perez said that the 25-foot-tall black olives are a nuisance. Their roots lift sidewalks and their droppings stain cars. Black olives also fare poorly during hurricanes.
But other residents disagreed.
“Those trees have been there for 30 years,” said Damian Cruz, who lives on the block and was one of many who voiced his opposition to Sarnoff. “There is no excuse for taking them down as they don’t present any imminent danger.”
Cruz thinks the existing trees can be saved, but might need to be trimmed to prevent wind damage. Also, he thinks that any claims of sidewalk damage are exaggerated.
He is relying on a 2010 ordinance to protect the city’s tree canopies and the aesthetics they provide.
If the black olive trees had been removed, the city would have replaced them with palm trees.
Six people had registered official protests with city’s Historic and Environmental Preservation Board. This was enough for the board to schedule a public hearing, which was expected to take place at 3 p.m. on Sept. 4 at City Hall.
But Perez and the association have raised a white flag.
“We withdrew our request to remove the trees,” said Perez, when contacted by the Miami Herald Friday morning. He said that the association has withdrawn its request to remove the trees due to the opposition.
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