Saving the Grove

The loss of the tree canopy in Coconut Grove is striking when Google Earth images from 2004 are compared with images from 2017. Coconut Grove has been known for the beauty of its dense tree canopy comprised of ancient oak hammocks, royal poincianas, and massive palms. This canopy has been destroyed by developers, who in recent years have violated the character of the neighborhood with modern “white box” homes on small lots, many of which have been divided illegally, or by taking advantage of loop holes. On Wednesday evening, July 19th, there was a hearing at City Hall where over 100 Grovites successfully fought a warranty by a builder with plans to build 3 homes on Palmetto Avenue. In a narrow victory, the City Commissioners voted 6 to 5 to deny approval, taking into account neighbors’ concerns about the destruction of the character of the Grove. Commissioner Ken Russell has been working to revise the City’s Tree Ordinance to better protect old trees. Additional tree inspectors must be hired. A ruse often used by developers is that a tree is “sick” and must be removed. It has been too easy for developers to destroy an ancient tree, pay a small fine, and to be allowed to plant several very young small trees in its place. Neighborhood Conservation District 3 is a special code, which aims to protect Coconut Grove’s canopy by making it difficult to increase residential density or to thin out trees. Grove 2030 is backing reforms to NCD 3 to further protect and increase the tree canopy. I learned at the hearing at City Hall that there are possible conflicts between the NCD and Miami 21, as well as some remaining loop holes exploited by developers, which must be closed. I plan to be vigilant and active.