Canopy trees spared in sidewalk project

Friday, October 4, 2019 0 Comments

Miami Lakes residents are crazy about their trees.
Whether it’s the town’s majestic live oak and black olive trees which provide shade or palm trees and other kinds of plants, they increase property values.
But when homeowners learned that about two dozen trees were being considered for removal along a mile of town roads so that wide sidewalks could be built, they jumped out of their seats in protest during a Sept. 24 town meeting.
At issue is the proposed 10-foot wide sidewalks and bike paths, part of a $1 million project called “Safe Routes to School” that is funded by the Florida Department of Transportation.
The new sidewalks would serve residents and kids who attend Miami Lakes K-8 Center at 14250 NW 67th Ave. and Miami Lakes Middle School at 6425 Miami Lakeway North.
The sidewalks would have been installed along Miami Lakeway South and Miami Lakeway North.
Threatened in the project were a dozen canopy trees as well as 10 sabal palm trees and a weeping bottlebrush tree.
Residents became riled up on social media platforms like the Neighbors cellphone app and Facebook.
They said removing the trees would decrease the value of their investments and take away the shade that spares their homes and cars from sunny, hot weather.
“We lost three big oak trees across the street from my home and it affects the heat and light on my house because of the missing trees,” said attorney Leslie Langbein about a prior tree cutting that was unrelated to the sidewalks project.
Langbein was among 30 residents who asked the council to preserve the trees and abandon the sidewalks that some predicted would go unused.
“I always drive my kids to school because I fear for their safety,” said Mariam Delgado, whose children attend Miami Lakes K-8 Center.
Councilman Jefferey Rodriguez lives a block away from Miami Lakeway South and said 14 homes along Lake Candlewood Court in the Lake Patricia neighborhood would be affected by the project.
“I talked to the residents and they don’t want a 10-feet wide sidewalk right in front of their houses,” Rodriguez said. “They want to keep the canopy trees. We need to take a step back and analyze this project first before making any decisions.”
What those who opposed the plan may not have known was that after an April 17 workshop, Town Manager Edward Pidermann had scaled back the tree cutting to
10 sabal palms and a single weeping bottlebrush tree.
Councilman Luis Collazo suggested a special meeting be held to cancel the project, which was to start this month.
“We all value our canopy and we need to do everything to preserve it,” said Collazo.
He lives in the Celebration Pointe condominiums that would lose trees if the sidewalks were built.
If the project is cancelled, the town would have to return $169,000 received from the state.
Staff has already spent $50,000 of that amount in planning and for designs.
Instead, Pidermann said he will request a deadline extension from the state.
“I will meet with FDOT officials, present our concerns and staff and I will come up with a plan for the council,” Pidermann said.
For the past 12 years, the Arbor Day Foundation has certified Miami Lakes as a Tree City USA community.
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