Planning commission tables tree permit for Biloxi ballpark project

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Biloxi Planning Commission on Thursday tabled a decision on granting a tree permit for the construction of the baseball stadium downtown. That project calls for the removal of 19 protected live oaks.

Their decision to postpone the vote by two weeks came with the hopes of saving at least one more live oak. The developers already plan to save 17 trees on the site, but as the architect told the group, it is a very tight location for a ballpark and parking garage.

The city's arborist told planning commissioners there's very little "wiggle room" with this project.

"The design was pretty well set. There was no flexibility in it. So, their proposal is what they're presenting today," Eric Nolan told commissioners.

Several citizens reminded the commission that taking down large live oaks, even for a worthy project, is a serious decision.

"I think we're the stewards of the trees. They're old. They can't talk. They can't do anything. They've got to stay there. They can't run. And so that's basically what we're looking at," said Biloxi resident Gary Touchard.

"We're not crazy tree huggers. We are tree huggers. But we're not crazy tree huggers. And we just want to be sure. Be careful and thoughtful," advised resident Grace Aaron.

"Very valuable. Because I'm a lifelong resident. I know what was there before. I remember the Buena Vista Hotel. The tennis courts behind it," said Eugene Lacaze.

The project architect told commissioners she's considered several configurations on the property.

"It's a very tight site. And if we had to start redesigning it at this point, we would not be able to stay on track," said project architect Leigh Jaunsen.

She also reminded everyone; it's about much more than baseball.

"This stadium is not intended to be about baseball; It's about economic development downtown," said Jaunsen.

After the arborist said he'd like to see the foundation plans before any final decision is made about trees, the motion was made to table the tree permit.

"Give our arborist a chance to look at the foundation plan. If we get one tree out of it, it's one more tree than we have now," said Planning Commissioner David Stanovich.

The commission will reconsider the tree permit issue at its meeting, December 5.

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