Four oak trees shade the front yard at 544 Beach Boulevard. It's the recently trimmed live oak tree that no longer shades part of the backyard that has East Biloxi neighbors like Brian Abraham so agitated. He said, "It makes me very sad to look at this tree now and see that it's going to be completely gone."
The tree is on property Norma Robb bought in February. On March 14th, Robb got a permit from the city arborist to cut down the backyard oak because its roots were cracking cement and its limbs were too close to the roof. "Much as I would like to leave that tree up there for his benefit," Mrs. Robb said, "he can buy an awning to shade his porch. I can't save my life by the danger of the limbs staying up there."
Biloxi arborist Eric Nolan defended the tree committee's decision to issue a permit that destroyed a protected live oak. "In this case," Nolan said, "the opportunity for danger to the property owner was to an extent that we felt we had to issue the permit."
Neighbors can stare at the tree from a backyard alley. Ronijean Gilley lives across the alley. To her, the tree isn't a threat. "I just believe it ought to be left there," she said. "It's a landmark."
The neighbors say the demolition is an example of a tree ordinance that needs improvement. Brian Abraham says more must be done to protect a vital part of Biloxi. "That's why I think it's so important to preserve what we have here and keep the integrity of our area intact as much as we can," he said.
City arborist Eric Nolan says he tries to preserve the integrity of the area as often as he can. But in situations like this, where Biloxi's ordinance says a protected tree can be cut down if it's a danger to a home, he has no choice.
By the way, Ocean Springs attorney Paul Minor offered to buy and move the tree if it was physically possible to do so.