Timber: Trees apparently inconvenient at new convenience store

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - An email, a picture and cell phone video alerted WLOX News to a tree demolition project at Edgewater Mall.  When a news crew arrived at the old Schlotzky's location on Eisenhower Drive Saturday afternoon, large machines were bulldozing and hauling off three live oak trees at the site.

The contractor at the site told WLOX News he had the necessary permits to do the work.  And that was confirmed by Biloxi Community Development Director Jerry Creel.  "This has gone to DRC," Creel said.  "Plans have been reviewed.  It did get approval."

The WLOX viewer who sent us the pictures told us was angered the coast was losing another collection of majestic trees.

Creel explained that when less than five protected trees are proposed to be cut down, a public hearing is not necessary.  In this case, Creel said one tree was dead, and the other two were sitting where part of the new Murphy Oil convenience store building would be built.

To understand the tree removal process, we visited the city of Biloxi's website, and found the Biloxi Community Development Department's tree removal application form.  It says a permit is necessary when a business wants to "1. remove any variety of Oak, Magnolia, or Bald Cypress which measures 5" in diameter (16" in circumference) when measured 54" (4½ feet) above the ground. 2. remove any other tree or woody perennial plant which has a single trunk which measures 8" in diameter (25" in circumference) when measured 54" (4½ feet) above the ground."

The tree removal permit form notes that three entities ultimately decide if a tree can be chopped down.  The form says, "The City Arborist has the authority to issue permits to remove diseased trees, or remove trees on City property, which are not protected.  The Tree Committee shall review any permits to remove one to five healthy protected trees in any zoning area. The Planning Commission shall review any permit to remove more than five healthy protected trees in a multiple-family residential (apartments or condos), commercial, or industrial zoned area."

According to Creel, developers of the Murphy Oil convenience store plan to replace the live oaks with 31 crepe myrtles, six red maples, three nutall oaks and a variety of shrubs.  The landscaping will decorate the perimeter of the property.

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