Tree removal part of government building construction; new landscaping & greenery planned

Published 12:02 am Saturday, March 4, 2017

LAPLACE — Joni Mitchell sang, “They paved paradise to put up a parking lot.”

In LaPlace, they cut down trees to put up a government building.

Over the past several months, numerous St. John the Baptist Parish residents have called L’OBSERVATEUR or commented on social media about the loss of a small group of pine, oak and crepe myrtle trees that once adorned the front lawn of the Percy Hebert Building.

The trees were removed last year to make way for the new East Bank Government Complex under construction in front of the current building.

To make way for the new 44,130 square foot building, all the trees were removed, to the dismay of some residents, who have been posting their feelings on the St. John Talk Facebook page.

“I don’t ever like the cutting down of trees,” Councilwoman Raj Pannu said. “Anytime anyone can save a tree, I’d rather see that.”

Councilwoman Jaclyn Hotard said the Parish Council had no input in what happened to the trees.

“We just voted to approve the structure,” said Hotard, who added she has seen the residents’ comments. “We weren’t consulted about any of that.”

St. John Parish Communications Director Baileigh Rebowe Helm said the removal of the trees was in the original design presented to the Council in 2009.

“We do apologize,” Helm said. “We think the new building will be a great addition. We do plan to replant trees after the building is finished.”

The East Bank Government Complex was been in the works since 2009 when voters approved the first of two bond issues.

Helm said the option to remove the trees was placed in the original design for the building in 2008 to allow for construction of the new building and surrounding parking area, adding the building was shifted toward Walgreens at the request of the Sheriff and Assessor to allow visibility of the original building that was named after Sheriff Percy Hebert.

“Additionally, the Council Chamber will be used for traffic court,” Helm said. “Because parking for existing employees is already limited, additional parking considerations were necessary.”

Parish officials stressed new landscaping and greenery will be placed following construction of the new Administration Building in accordance with Planning and Zoning codes for the Overlay District.