Next Tree Ordinance Work Session - August 22, 2019

From the City of Atlanta website: The Tree Protection Ordinance Rewrite Session has been rescheduled for August 22, 2019. Also, City Council has voted for the Arborist Review to start occurring in the beginning of the permitting process, effective immediately.

June 18, 2019 

Tree Protection Ordinance Rewrite Work Session Rescheduled; Council Approves Change to Permit Review Process

ATLANTA — The Atlanta City Council Community Development and Human Services Committee’s work session on revisions to the City’s Tree Protection Ordinance scheduled for June 19 has been rescheduled to Thursday, August 22 at 10 a.m. The work session will be held in Committee Room No. 1 at Atlanta City Hall, 55 Trinity Ave SW.

Additionally, on Monday, the Council approved legislation directing the Department of City Planning to establish a pre-submittal team to conduct and coordinate consultations at the beginning of the permit review process in order to protect and preserve trees in Atlanta.

District 5 Council member Natalyn Archibong, chair of the Community Development and Human Services Committee, described the legislation as an important step forward.

“The revision of our current Tree Protection Ordinance is an important next step in protecting our tree canopy. The resolution passed Monday allows for the tree review process to occur at the beginning of the land disturbance or building permit process. Currently, the tree review process occurs near the end of the review process. We are pleased that City Planning has agreed to immediately initiate this process change and look forward to receiving the proposed tree ordinance revision and hosting a work session in August,” Archibong said.



6-19-19 flyer

The Committee on Community Development and Human Services (CD/HS) previously scheduled work session has now been rescheduled to August 22 at 10AM.

This will not be a full Council meeting but a meeting of the City Council committee that oversees the City's tree canopy in addition to other land use, housing, and development issues. We encourage everyone who has a concern about the direction this tree ordinance rewrite is taking to please attend the August work session to voice your concerns. 

The presentation of the draft outline of the new tree ordinance unveiled at the City Planning meetings the week of June 3 shows a new ordinance quickly taking form which drastically differs from the current ordinance. The outline reveals that the City wants a more "streamlined review process" which moves the planning process for trees to the beginning of the permitting process, but balances tree preservation with the City's needs for "affordability, mobility, and growth." (The City did not elaborate on what issue would take priority when there is a conflict between trees and affordability, mobility, and growth.)

Most alarming was the revelation that City Planning was planning to do away with the orange/yellow sign postings and all appeal options of proposed tree removals. (The right to appeal a denied tree cutting permit would remain; only tree removal permits would not be appealable.) Elizabeth Johnson, the Urban Ecology Framework Project Manager (city-employee), said that eliminating preliminary permits and appeal options was how the City could "reward" developers who were "doing everything right". However, an appeal is never filed against a developer for not doing everything right, but a city arborist who issues a preliminary permit that does not comply with the tree ordinance.  Eliminating both the posting and the appeals process brings the entire permitting process behind closed doors in which the first time the public is made aware that a tree cutting permit has been issued is AFTER the trees are down. No wonder Everett Catts of Northside Neighbors titled his review of the draft outline: Residents: Atlanta tree ordinance’s planned changes favor developers.

Also, there is no apparent protection of trees offered for Atlanta's residential neighborhoods unless the property is in a stream buffer or contains "high value trees", a presently undefined term that may not even be legally enforceable. But trees on single family residential lots need protection given that's where 77% of Atlanta's tree canopy resides. And the trees that are not high value today are the trees that will grow into the high value trees of tomorrow -- we cannot let the City use a high value tree model that is so short-sighted as to wipe out Atlanta's next generation of trees. The City claims it can achieve 50% canopy by protecting just the stream buffers and a handful of "intact forests", as well as planting 3,600 acres in a "young forest initiative", but they have not provided any data to demonstrate how these measures enable the City to achieve its 50% canopy goal.

Furthermore, the City will allow a "free and easy" permit to remove one "non-high value tree" a year. Again, how does this proposal to remove one tree a year help preserve, much less grow, tree canopy?

It appears that most of the recommendations in the draft outline are politically-driven to keep certain constituents happy versus data- driven to save Atlanta's tree canopy.  Please come to Tree Protection Ordinance Work Session on August 22 to let the City know what you think. Atlanta's tree canopy is at stake, and if the rewrite of the ordinance is allowed to continue the direction it is heading, there won't be any substantive tree canopy left to protect by the time the tree ordinance is updated again.

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