2019 Tree Ordinance Rewrite

Upcoming Tree Ordinance Meetings

jun 2019 meetings

The Department of City Planning is hosting four meetings the first week in June to gather public input on the initial rewrite outline of the Tree Protection Ordinance. There have already been numerous hints dropped that a dramatically different ordinance is being envisioned by City Planning in which:

  1. There will be no process to appeal a city arborist's decision to remove a tree.
  2. Recompense will not be charged for removed trees not replanted elsewhere.
  3. Instead of recompense being charged for removal, trees in certain areas of the city simply will be off-limits to removal  However, it's very unclear if other trees will have any protection at all.  

Is geography-based tree protection what the consulting firm Biohabitats proposes for the City of Atlanta? If so, what does this mean for the trees in your neighborhood? 

Come to one of the meetings above and ask specific questions about what is being planned.  (Do not let non-answers be an acceptable answer to your questions.)  If your home isn't near a currently designated protected area, ask what specific protections the trees in your neighborhood will have.  And more importantly, ask how the City will enforce its new tree protection rules since they don't enforce their current ones.  Also, ask how will the City be held accountable to follow its own rules if there is no appeals process? 

The Tree Ordinance is being rewritten now and you have the right to know exactly what the City intends for the new tree ordinance.   And, you need to make your opinion about it heard.

 

2011 Tree Ordinance Documents

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. 

Below are the documents saved from that rewrite attempt.

 

2014 Tree Ordinance Documents

  • Tree Ordinance proposal that was submitted to the Community Development/Human Resources Committee in 2014.  Like the 2011 Tree Ordinance rewrite, this version of the ordinance never made it into law.
  • Table of recommended updates used in the 2014 rewrite.
   

2019 Tree Ordinance Documents

Last Updated on Saturday, 18 May 2019 11:54

  • The Scope of Services provided in the BioHabitats contract with the City Planning Department, which includes a rewrite of the Atlanta Tree Protection Ordinance. (The full contract is 200 pages; please contact us if you would like us to email you a copy.)
  • Findings and Recommendations from Biohabitats' Urban Ecology Framework year-long study of Atlanta's ecology.
  • A summary of the meetings that have been hosted to date regarding Atlanta's environment and the 2019 tree ordinance rewrite.
  • A “mini-update” of the Tree Ordinnace was presented to the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) at its meeting on May 9, 2018.  According to Planning Commissioner Tim Keame, this mini-update was still in its very early states and he encouraged feedback.

At the December 12, 2018 Urban Ecology Framework meeting, Tim Keane, Atlanta's Planning Commissioner, said the first draft of the new tree ordinance would be ready sometime in the first quarter of 2019.  The rewrite is taking longer than planned, with a draft of the outline now ready the first week of June 2019.

 

City of Atlanta Rewriting Tree Ordinance (Again)

Last Updated on Saturday, 18 May 2019 11:42

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 City Council Community Development/Human Resources Committee, but this rewrite, too, never made it into law.

In 2017, City of Atlanta Planning Commissioner, Tim Keane, reached back to the city he left in 2015, and hired Charleston-based consulting firm Biohabitats 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 in March 2018, was supposed to result in a Tree Ordinance rewrite by the time the Biohabitats' scope of work ended this summer (2019). Now it looks like it may be this fall (2019) before we have a final draft of the new Tree Ordinance based on the updated time table. Meantime, there have been several “mini-updates” presented to the Urban Ecology Framework Technical Advisory Committee, but the full ordinance is still to be rewritten.

Two public forums were held on April 23 and 24, 2019 to present the results of the Biohabitats' year-long study, which largely focused on protecting trees near waterways and considering ideas for future land restorations projects, which, not surprisingly, is Biohatbitas' area of experitise.  They briefly touched upon the new ordinance in a one page slide, but did not make any recommendations that showed how we could preserve our existing canopy, much less grow it to 50%, the City's stated goal.  More public forums will be held in June to review an outline of the first draft.

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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