Feedback Comparison of Community Reaction to TPO Draft Outline

Below is a summary of the feedback that was posted via sticky notes to the presentation boards presented at each of the four meetings City Planning held June 3 – 6, 2019 to review the Tree Ordinance Draft Outline.

  • The left-hand column includes City Planning’s summary of notes posted from all four meetings, under the subheading “On the components presented in the June forums”.
  • The right-hand column represents The Tree Next Door’s summary of notes posted during the last meeting. TTND did not photograph and transcribe the sticky notes posted to the presentation boards until the final meeting on June 6.

City Planning’s summary should include all the feedback captured in the right-hand column in addition to the left.  However, all the feedback from the June 6 meeting didn’t make it into the summary of all four meetings, and in some cases, it was completely missed.  Tree Next Door members who attended the three previous meetings report that the feedback they saw on the boards was very similar all four evenings, so we don’t understand how the feedback can be so different.

The two most criticized proposals in the Tree Ordinance Draft Outline was:

  1. to eliminate the posting and appeals process and
  2. to allow one non-high value tree to be cut on a property each year for non-construction purposes. 

As you can see by the comparison of what the City summarized and what TTND captured from the June 6 meeting, City Planning has either completely misinterpreted what the people said or failed to understand the degree of opposition towards these two proposals.  To illustrate:

1.  Eliminating the posting and appeals process

Public objection to this proposal was so overwhelming at the first three meetings that the TPO Rewrite project manager Elizabeth Johnson assured the meeting attendees at the final meeting that there was no need to belabor this point. She said that they had already heard “loud and clear” that this proposal was not acceptable. 

But they didn’t hear anything “loud and clear”.  Nowhere in the City Planning’s overall summary do we see ANY objection to eliminating the posting and appeals process.  Instead, we see in the board-specific feedback that the City believes the public is receptive to eliminating appeals on projects in which standards are being met and streamlining the process on others. But what we heard is that people are completely against eliminating appeals and they certainly don’t trust the “streamlining” process.  By reducing citizen oversight, they feel the City is reducing transparency and encouraging corruption.

2.  Allowing property owners (including developers) to remove one healthy tree each year

Public objection to this proposal was just as intense as the proposal to eliminate the posting and appeals process, but the City fails to capture the magnitude of this opposition. Not only is it not even mentioned in their overall summary, but in the board-specific feedback the City lists more “likes” than “dislikes” for their proposal.  Oddly, in the last bullet point of the feedback to the “Non-Construction Related” presentation board, the City notes that the “voice of the opposition is stronger than the support lending the City to a losing battle,” but the overall summary suggests that there is more positive than negative feedback to what was a nearly universally panned proposal.

In the table below, The Tree Next Door provides the number of comments associated with each topic as well as a direct link to the actual comments that were made on each presentation board. We let you see exactly what the people said verbatim and we have sorted their feedback according to response frequency so you can see what mattered most.  Conversely, the City’s summary provides no links to their source material – you can’t see the actual comments -- nor does it attempt to quantify the number of people who mentioned each issue, so it is impossible to tell the magnitude of concern associated with each topic.


Presentation Board


City Planning’s Summary of Feedback on
Presentation Boards from All Four Meetings
June 3-6, 2019 




TTND’s Summary of Feedback on
Presentation Boards from Just One Meeting

June 6, 2019

 (# of related comments)


Intent and Purpose

(No link to individual comments available)

  • Too many buzzwords
  • Be transparent and accountable with consequences beyond money
  • Transparent and enforceable
  • Include as goals to educate and incentivize protection, planting and/or preservation
  • Clearly tie to the benefits of trees; measurable, accountable, etc.


(Click here to see individual comments)

  • Lack of Trust (10): Disbelief that the stated TPO intent and purpose are measurable goals and will save trees, much less grow the canopy to 50% coverage.
  • No Net Loss of Trees (3): TPO intent and purpose does not include that there will be “no net loss of trees”.
  • Enforcement (3): TPO intent and purpose includes no language about enforcement.
  • Aligning TPO with Other Development Requirements (2): TPO must be given equal footing to other regulations/development requirements and be considered in the beginning of permitting process.
  • Importance of Trees (2): Trees provide other benefits that need to be recognized, and their contribution to high value habitat and high bio-diversity is critical.
  • Community Input (2): TPO intent and purpose needs to include statement on community input, especially those whose voices are not heard over developer money.
  • Grading and footprints (2): Limit land grading and buildable footprints to protect soil.
  • Replanting Trees (1): TOP intent and purpose needs to include tree replanting objectives.

Tree Assessment

(This board was titled “What Should Atlanta's Methods Look Like?at June Meetings.)

(No link to individual comments available)

  • Need more definition on what this looks like for Atlanta
  • Should recognize and appropriately value trees that are ill-suited or improperly placed on site
  • Differing opinions on value for old, large trees vs small, regeneration
  • Link tree assessment to benefits in the Intent & Purpose for accountability and measurability
  • Assess the surrounding areas to evaluate impact to environment with any potential removals (heat island, air filtration, stormwater, property value, equity and access)
  • Other factors:
    • Cultural value; neighborhood significance
    • Dollar value of tree
    • Trees on published lists (champion trees, etc.)
    • Worth to wildlife and habitats
    • Structure of tree (weak-limbed, etc.)
    • Value of forest or groups of trees


(Click here to see individual comments)

  • Tree Assessment (7): Need to prioritize saving the more valuable trees, but some questions around determining what is valuable; need to include stormwater mitigation and erosion control in the value equation.
  • Examples from Other Municipalities (11): What % of the canopy will the valuation method save; need to save smaller trees for future canopy; need more community input on tree valuation, include/exclude certain trees; enforce with moratoriums on building.

Development Standards

(No link to individual comments available)

  • Establish credits for those contributing to existing canopy. I.e., why penalize those supporting/contributing to healthy canopy?
  • Protect within a certain perimeter around the property and allow for flexibility on the interior
  • Higher preservation standards in high impact areas or areas of vulnerability
  • Implement minimum canopy coverages for individual sites
  • Ensure value of protection and/or removal matches value of existing tree
  • Recompense tied to land value
  • Recompense tied to size of tree (value)
  • Encourage better site design:
    • Smaller, reduced or reused footprints; less impervious surfaces or increased use of permeable surfaces
    • Water retention, run-off abatement
    • Minimized soil disturbance or remediation
    • Open space requirements
    • Encourage true density growth, not just larger buildings
    • Strengthen parking lot standards
    • Encourage green and living walls
  • Technical guides
    • Coordinate with Stormwater to ensure work hand in hand
  • Credits
    • Reward those developing a site well
    • For tree species contributing to climate change impacts, clean water, regional ecology and habitat
    • Replanting credits to recompense for younger shade trees and/or large shrubs planted under large overstory
  • Exemptions
    • Acceptable for low-income residents
    • Provide in historic districts and infill
    • Concerns about abuse
  • Incentives
    • Education for non-industry individuals (potential to have required courses for bad actors)
    • To build on previously developed lots v. greenfields
    • To build on abandoned sites or parking lots
    • Only offered in high need or impaired areas
    • To plant in desirable areas, needed areas
    • For property owners to maintain, prevent tree destruction due to neglect
    • For property owners to keep specimen trees
  • Process
    • Build in step on application for accountability of reading the TPO (I have read and understood…)
    • Build in a process to ensure accuracy of what is submitted to Arborist staff
    • Identify projects that impact trees or the environment as soon as possible in the process
    • Appeals and postings are important to the community.
      • Don’t eliminate but can support streamlining for applicants.
      • Consider extending the posting timelines.
      • Public display of all tree removal submissions on city website or other media
  • City assistance
    • Supplement with consultants, contracts to expand city capacity
  • Penalties
    • Increase penalties to deter non-compliance
    • Repeat offender system
    • Ban building permit issuance for those violating (illegal removals)
    • Moratorium on submitting plans for a timeframe
    • Required education courses for those who are repeat offenders or bad actors

(Click here to see individual comments)

  • Planning for Trees (11): Make stormwater part of the tree conservation planning process; deny permits to builders who don’t plan for trees; hold developers more accountable for tree removal and clear cutting.
  • Deterrents to Illegal Tree Removal (10): Need to increase penalties to effectively stop illegal tree removal: increase fines, put a moratorium on future work permits, deny certificate of occupancy, revoke developer’s license.
  • Impervious Surfaces and Grading (7): Need to protect soil by reducing grading and impervious surfaces; use existing footprint.
  • Transparency and Trust (5): Lack of faith in the streamlined review process to protect trees and prevent corruption.
  • Tree Recompense and Planting/Replanting (5): Plant more street trees, native trees, tie recompense with land value, remove recompense caps.
  • Tree Valuation (4): Trees must be valued in terms of lifetime ecological value and contribution to the future canopy.
  • Education (3): Need more educational services about trees for the public, architects and engineers; need to understand regulation definitions better.






















City Planning says the public "can support streamlining", but look above: the public says they believe streamlining will not protect trees and will invite corruption.

Protection Zones

(No link to individual comments available)

  • Concerns that zones didn’t cover some forested areas valued by residents
  • Concerns it could negatively affect property value
  • Great, but need more understanding of areas selected and how they’ll be treated differently
  • Standards established as a baseline for the entire city then built out for special zones where needed.
  • Keep protection standards consistent
  • Offer mitigation when trees must be removed in higher density areas (potential to conserve land elsewhere)

(Click here to see individual comments)

  • Lack of Coverage (17): Map does now show protection for many single-family neighborhoods, city parks, city urban core, headwaters, or underground streams; protection focused on areas developers are less interested in developing; confusing zones.
  • Merit (4): Protection zones are a good idea but need citizen input and should be used to encourage tree replanting.
  • Protection Criteria (3): Need more specific language; “high-value” is not a scientifically defined term; who decides protection categories?
  • Issues Not Directly Related to Protection Zones (3): Concerns about tree removal rights, enforcement penalties, and education about ordinance.

Doing Everything Right

(No link to individual comments available)

  • Limit removal of trees for projects proposing construction of 2 car garages within a mile of MARTA, Beltline, Streetcar or other major transit line
  • More emphasis on opportunities to develop affordable housing incorporating green infrastructure
  • Allow no appeals for certain projects, but ensure we understand and agree the project meets the standards set forth

City Planning says the public will "allow no appeals for certain projects" but the public says that appeals are necessary to keep transparancy and prevent corruption. 

(Click here to see individual comments)

  • No Appeals and No Postings (12): Appeals and postings needed to keep transparency, prevent corruption, and provide citizen oversight.
  • High Value Trees via Affordability/Mobility (6): Confusion over how high value trees are designated in relation to affordability and mobility, keeping sustainable footprints, and if City can be trusted to do what’s right.
  • Incentives to “Doing it Right” (3): Recognize builders and developers who do it right with special signage.
  • Staffing (3): Concerns that staff is not adequate for the job, dissatisfaction with Arborist Division Manager.
  • Enforcement (2): Ensure that the tree ordinance is enforced by increasing penalties and preventing gamesmanship.

Due Diligence

(Board was titled “Due Diligence - Point A - Pre-Application” at June Meetings)

(No link to individual comments available)

  • Implement as soon as possible

(Click here to see individual comments)

  • What projects should go through this process (8)?: No indication that some projects qualify more than others for this type of review.
  • Missing or other (7): Need pre and post review, native tree replanting, inclusion of other stakeholders & Watershed Management for stormwater review.

Non-Construction Related

(No link to individual comments available)

  • Like*:
    • Don’t allow high value removal, but allow others with replacement of equal value tree
    • Increase the allowed time period
    • Allow with replacement of equal value on property
    • Allows for freedom to manage private property
    • Consider adding other variables such as acreage (x trees per y year per z acres), or up to a certain size.
    • Allowances for trees that threaten homeowner private property (site infrastructure)
    • Ensure value is measured by enough appropriate factors
    • Tie to overall canopy trend (if healthy or not much happening, allow removal. If seeing major changes, do not allow)
    • Allow removal if poor tree siting or planting (ill-suited, improperly placed, too close together, etc.)
    • Allow removal of low-moderate if property meets density with good quality trees, not a set timeline.
  • Don’t like/Uncomfortable
    • Concerns about abuse or potential loophole
    • Don’t allow, but provide expedited support for homeowners
    • Uncomfortable, but understand where may be necessary
    • Counterintuitive to the 50% canopy goal
  • Agree process should be fast and easy for the homeowner
  • Track for sale of property
  • Voice of the opposition is stronger than the support lending the City to a losing battle

(Click here to see individual comments)

  • Dislike One Tree Per Year Proposal (16): Overwhelming rejection of this proposal, seen as arbitrary and a disaster for the tree canopy; only DDH trees or undesirable species (if replanted) should qualify.
  • Arborist Oversight (5): The City Arborist should determine which trees should be removed; dissatisfaction with City Planning manager.
  • Education (5): Need more education on what “high value” means, as well as protecting habitat and safety/tree maintenance issues.
  • Replanting (3): Concerns that replanting does not adequately replace mature trees, need to be able to replant in other less tree-dense areas; define “equal value” for replanting high value trees.
  • Low Income/Elderly Assistance (2): More resources are needed for low income and elderly in helping with tree maintenance/emergency removal.
  • Like One Tree Per Year Proposal (2): Support idea for private property, but maybe once every five years?

City Planning seems to have missed how strong the opposition was to this concept by indicating more likes than dislikes, when what we saw posted was the exact opposite.  Yet, it appears that City Planning knows the voice of opposition is stronger than the voice of support, so we question why the City is still pushing for what the people clearly don't want.

Arborist Process Flow

(No link to individual comments available)

  • No summary of feedback on this board provided

(Click here to see individual comments)

  • Process (6): Need plans made available electronically; overall process too complex and/or expensive for elderly and poor; need more instructions; need more focus on saving vs. removing trees.
  • Enforcement (6): Greater need for enforcement; need Saturday coverage; too many trees coming down even under existing ordinance; nuisance trees not followed up on.
  • Appeals (6): Appeals should be free, with more than 5 days to appeal, have clear notification, and occur earlier in the permitting process.
  • Public Trees (3): Workflow does not seem to apply to trees on public property; Parks Department non-responsive.
  • Staffing (3): Too little staff, front desk needs more training, dissatisfaction with Arborist Division Manager.
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