OCEAN SPRINGS -- Residents called the city on its assessment of the leaning tree on Lover's Lane at a public hearing Monday night.
JoAnne Calhoun had hired an arborist from Fairhope, Ala., she said was "highly certified" and "independent" to counter the city-hired arborist.
She said he gave a verbal assessment of the leaning tree and it's healthy, with a root structure that is in good shape, and is "quite able to hold the canopy."
Calhoun said the arborist also said that by comparing the tree now to photos from 30 years ago, the lean has not increased.
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"It's leaning because it's seeking the sun," Calhoun said.
And, oddly enough, he could not find evidence of a tire in the trunk.
The city-hired arborist said in his assessment of the tree, that he "noticed a rubber tire. It looks as though the tree was planted inside this tire." He also said it might be unstable and hollow."
City officials had included the tire reference as a statement of fact when passing the information on to the Board of Aldermen, which will make the final decision on the fate of the tree. So it appears whether the leaning tree has a tire in the trunk is now in question.
Building official Hilliard Fountain said he'll go to the tree this week and find out the thickness of what the city-hired arborist thought was a tire.
Calhoun had the support of 20 of her neighbors who want to save the tree.
But Mayor Connie Moran, facilitating the meeting between the city and the neighborhood, urged residents to understand that it is a safety issue.
The tree causes a bottleneck along Lover's Lane -- the winding, narrow street with no shoulder along the high-valued property that faces Biloxi Bay on one side.
Moran said city fire officials have stressed that trucks can't get under the leaning tree, which leans at an angle of 60 to 70 degrees, without having to stop, adding 2 to 4 minutes to response time. It's also an issue for school buses, the city has said.
The tree is believed to be 60-80 years old.
And because of it, the clearance for the street is 13 feet, as opposed to the state-recommended 14 feet.
Fountain has explained that the clearance for school buses is 12 feet 8 inches and a fire truck is 12 feet 11 inches.
But residents ask why it has become a public safety issue after all the years the tree has been leaning.
The mayor said it was because someone on the street had written a letter of complaint to the city, afraid for his safety in a fire emergency.
The city plans to post Calhoun's arborist report on the city's website when it's complete.