Lointer Homes tried to pull a fast one where they are building one of their big white boxy condos on a leafy Coconut Grove street. Neighbors came out in force to ask the HEP Board (Historic and Environmental Preservation Board) to deny the project as-is because too many trees are being impacted by the development. The plans call for large parts of an old 100 year old live oak tree to be chopped off to accommodate the new condo. Other smaller trees, including two gumbo limbos and a royal poinciana, are slated to be removed and relocated.
The Lointer Homes people have been through a number of arborists, landscape architects and plans trying to get their plans through. The drawings were not accurate and according to those present at the meeting, they were drawn to prejudice the issue and things were left out and almost hidden from the board.
The original plans had a swimming pool, the new plans do not, but instead of the pool, the building is much larger. Parking is underground and covers most of the footprint area, which will effect the long, winding tree roots. There are 12 underground parking spaces as part of the current plan.
The correct plans were not presented at the meeting and it almost looked like a bait and switch as more questions and answers were revealed. Lointer's attorneys and staff are either all less than smart or quite clever. The board felt they were inefficient.
There is a 10 year maintenance Bond for protection of the moved live oak. But what does that mean? The developers will be long gone in 10 years. The developers did not approve of the 10 year bond when the city asked them for the 10 year bond and insisted that one year is what is required, so this is another issue that popped up out of the blue at the meeting. They were sort of faking it until they make it at the meeting - coming up with ideas at will so it seemed. Naleeb Campbell, Hep Board member, felt that the developers were not telling the truth. He is the only one who put them on the spot. He is convinced that the current plans for the underground garage will end up killing the roots and in the end killing the live oak tree.
Again, there is a problem with the 10 year bond -- it is a yearly thing, it needs to be renewed each year, but once the condos are sold, the developer would be gone. How would the bond be renewed with the developers long gone? And what happens if the tree dies, what does the bond do?
Board member Hugh Ryan said that the HEP Board should simply go by what the NCD rules and the Grove Tree Ordinance say. What applies or doesn't apply to this project? There seem to be more impact to the trees than the City first had anticipated.
So the developers had a bait and switch plan which was brought up over protests and then a 10 year bond popped up out of the blue.
Why is there an issue at all of moving or cutting a 100 year old live oak tree? Isn't that against the Grove Tree Ordinance?
In the end Board Member Lynn Lewis asked for the issue be brought back in a month when the current plans are available. She felt that the complete aspect of the plans was not present at Tuesday's meeting. Other members agreed. There was a mix-up on purpose or by accident on the part of the developer.
So the plan is to bring back the issue at the next meeting. The HEP Board should have denied the plans at the current meeting, but as usual, the issue will drag on until the developer gets what they want in the end. The HEP Board took up two hours discussing this issue. One day hopefully the City will adhere to its own rules and won't have to discuss issues ad nauseum.