Gulfport to implement tree ordinance

By Elise Roberts - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The city of Gulfport wants to make some changes when it comes to building. Mayor George Schloegel is hoping the city council will back him on a measure that will protect trees throughout the city.

Right now, Gulfport has no rules on its books when it comes to chopping down trees on residential property. If a developer buys property, they have the right to clear out every tree on the land, no matter how young or old. Mayor Schloegel witnessed this in one section of the city and now he wants to implement some changes in hopes of saving Gulfport's trees.

R. Lee Flowers is the councilman for ward six. It's an area he says has the most undeveloped land in the city of Gulfport. The councilman is pleased with the area's progress, however, he doesn't like the method.

"Everything has been clear cut, whether it was a pine tree, an oak tree or even some magnolias," said Flowers.

The mayor wants to limit the kinds of trees that can be removed from residential property. Right now, only commercial property has restrictions. Under the commercial ordinance, developers are prohibited from cutting certain trees of certain sizes. The mayor wants similar restrictions for residential property and he wants them now.

"The mayor feels like he wants to get something in place to close the door and stop the bleeding now. And then go back later and fine tune the ordinance," said Gulfport Public Information Officer Ryan Lafontaine.

Lafontaine said the administration wants an immediate end to what it calls the mass destruction of its natural canopy. But some developers say clear cutting the land eases design restrictions.

"We're not asking them to save every tree," said Flowers. "We understand that you are going to have to clear your property so that you can build something on it."

Flowers said the council will keep developers in mind as it tweaks the ordinance. It will also consider private citizens.

"We don't want to restrict private citizens to where they can't maintain their property inside of a subdivision. But we don't want a large developer, whether inside or outside the area, to cut down or clear cut everything because it makes it unappealing," said Flowers.

The tree cutting ordinance will be on the agenda of Gulfport's next council meeting. That meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, September 8th at Gulfport City Hall.

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