City of Atlanta Rewriting Tree Ordinance (Again)

For the third time in seven years, the City of Atlanta is taking another stab at rewriting the Atlanta Tree Protection Ordinance.

As a bit of history, in 2010, the Philadelphia-based landscape architecture firm, Wallace, Roberts, and Todd (WRT), interviewed a number of tree ordinance stakeholders, (i.e., city departments, tree advocates, builders and developers) to gather input into what changes needed to be made to the tree ordinance. In 2011, WRT worked closely with The Tree Next Door to rewrite the ordinance so that it would be simpler and better organized, address inconsistencies and improve efficacy, and incorporate current arboricultural science. What resulted was a draft that was eventually shelved. In 2014, another rewrite, in which The Tree Next Door did not participate, was submitted to the Community Development/Human Resources Committee, but this rewrite, too, never made it into law.

Now, City of Atlanta Planning Commissioner, Tim Keane, has reached back to the city he left in 2015, and hired Charleston-based consulting firm Biometrics to conduct a year-long assessment, the Urban Ecology Framework, to "define a better future condition for the natural environment, including high-level recommendations about future green spaces, green connections, and green policies." The study, which began this past May (2018), is supposed to result in a Tree Ordinance rewrite by the time the study wraps up next summer (2019). Meantime, there have been several “mini-updates” presented to the Urban Ecology Framework Technical Advisory Committee, but the full ordinance is still being rewritten.

While The Tree Next Door has always been supportive of rewriting Atlanta's tree ordinance to make it clearer, we have seen twice now a tree ordinance rewrite that never became reality. Whether this third attempt might actually succeed in becoming law is still to be determined, but we do know that we cannot wait another year (or two) for a new ordinance when trees are coming down now due to a lack of enforcement with our current tree ordinance. After all, what good is a new tree ordinance if the City of Atlanta is unwilling to enforce the one it currently has? To that end, The Tree Next Door has identified the five most common violated sections of the Atlanta Tree Protection Ordinance we would like to see addressed so that by the time we do get a new tree ordinance, the enforcement mechanisms are already in place.

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