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The Gulfport Code of Ordinances, Chapter 9, Planning and Development Article III SUBDIVISIONS, Item 9-47 governs the development of subdivisions with regulations that state that subdivisions should “provide for the harmonious development of the city . . . for adequate and convenient open spaces for . . . recreation, light and air . . . that will tend to create conditions favorable to health, safety, convenience or prosperity.” Additionally, The City of Gulfport Code of Ordinance Section 9-50 (A) (5) states: “ Because of their [Trees] value in soil conservation, health and community appearance, large trees shall be preserved wherever possible. Certainly, the preservation of protected and historical trees in new subdivisions adds to the harmony of its citizens. Yet, Arbor’s development of the former Great Southern Golf Course retains very few trees to make room for new houses.
There are specific points of disagreement between the citizens and the developer on tree preservation. The proposed drainage plan lines the perimeter of the development with pipe and storm drains putting the root systems of protected trees in surrounding properties in harm’s way. The citizens respectfully disagree with Mr. Stieffel’s testimony at the Gulfport Planning Commission hearing specifically (see testimony link): a. Page 9, lines 17 – 20. Mr. Stieffel stated that Arbor has located all protected trees; and on b. Page 9, lines 20-21, “What we are not required to do is locate everybody else’s trees around the perimeter; and on c. Page 10, lines 12-20, “Infrastructure will virtually impact no trees, only 1 or 2 very small trees within the easement may be damaged or removed.” The attached document is a satellite overlay of trees transposed over the developers lots, roads and drainage plan. The satellite image shows that there are 30-40 large trees that will be removed to accommodate a road network and drainage system to support additional houses. This image directly contradicts Mr Stieffel’s statements that “they have located all protected trees” and “only 1 or 2 very small trees will be removed.” Additionally, the general plan presented to the Gulfport Planning Commission does not have all protected trees identified. Developers are required to identify surrounding trees that could be impacted by construction activity. A review of the overlay of the developer’s general plan using a satellite image of trees will clearly show that trees will be impacted by installing infrastructure or construction activities. Futhermore, Section 9-50 (A) (5) clearly states that large trees shall be preserved wherever possible. It is clearly possible that that 30-40 large trees could be preserved to prevent “Profit” over “Preservation.”
The residents surrounding the golf course have historic and protected trees on their properties that border the golf course and have asked that Tree Preservation pursuant to Gulfport Mississippi Code of Ordinance, Supplementary Design Standard, Appendix A, Section IV (E) (2) be enforced. Tree preservation on adjacent lots along Mockingbird Lane, Venetian Gardens and Southern Circle in instances where trees’ critical roots extend into and, in some cases, beyond the proposed 20’ drainage easements was not considered in Arbor’s General Plan approved by the Gulfport Planning Commission in June 2022. Pursuant to Article III, Sec. 9.49 (B), the general subdivision plan did not show sufficient detail for construction of drainage lines/catch basins in relation to existing conditions and its surroundings trees, including those on adjacent lots. The Director of Urban Development approved some tree preservation in the Technical Report to the general subdivision plan. But the same consideration should be given for tree preservation near the property line of adjacent lots. Ensuring uniform application of the City of Gulfport tree preservation code will provide for the harmonious development of the city, create conditions favorable to safety, preserve the aesthetics of our community, and minimize risk and liability of all concerned parties. To date, a representative of Arbor, LLC verbally committed to assessing the other affected trees along the property lines.
Residents in the neighborhoods that back up to the former golf course have registered historic trees with the Societe des Arbres, and more residents have filed applications to register their trees in an effort to save them. It is common knowledge that the installation of drainage lines and catch basins will require trenches to be dug and will directly impact and disturb the roots of healthy, well established, esthetically pleasing trees bordering the perimeter of the proposed subdivision. There is no question that construction activity will disturb the roots and damage, weaken, and or kill these trees. The trees may even fall, where it can incur major property damage or harm life. Residents requested that the Planning Commission set as a condition of any approval that the developer: (1) make adjustment to the drainage line along lots 15-18 and relocate catch basins (retention ponds) 49 and 50 to preserve trees, and (2) conduct a site survey of preserved trees and proposed sewer lines and catch basins on lots 21-23, 29-32, 38-41, 75-76, and 71-88; to preserve trees on the adjacent lots of Mockingbird Lane, Venetian Gardens and Southern Circle so they will have a reasonable chance of survival. The Commission, however, approved Arbor’s General Plan without conditions.
Currently, the former golf course is the habitat for wildlife in existing ponds and trees. Such wildlife includes Nutria, seven or eight turtle species, four or five frog species, Least Terns, Giant Blue Herons, and Anhinga birds. Birds who nest in the golf course trees are Falcons, Hawks, Eagles, Hoot Owls, Mississippi Kite, Killdeer, and Osprey. Yes, developments always affect wildlife and displace species, but some of the birds listed above live and nest both in the trees and feed in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It is imperative that such species be able to access the Gulf for food from their protected “homes,” areas populated by protected and historic trees.