New Schedule Released, No More Public Meetings

A new timeline for the Tree Protection Ordinance rewrite has been released by City Planning, showing that we won't have a new ordinance until next fall at the earliest, which means the tree ordinance rewrite is now well over a year past its original deadline of the summer of 2019.

(Click on the picture below for an expanded view.)

january 2020 released schedule


Additionally, this new timeline indicates time frames for drafts to be posted for public review, but -- as Urban Ecology Framework Manager Andrew Walter stated at the January 15 Tree Commission Business Meeting  -- there will be no more public meetings about the tree ordinance rewrite. It appears that City Planning is unwilling to hold further community feedback forums given the intense negative feedback they received at their November 6, 2019 Tree Ordinance Community Meeting, causing the City to cancel a second meeting they had planned the next day.

At that time, City Planning stated on their Urban Ecology Framework website that, "We discovered that the presentation and meeting format were not conducive to receiving feedback on the key concepts that were presented. We therefore chose to cancel the remaining meeting to respect everyone's time. We will be reevaluating the schedule and our approach to future engagement."

The City's approach to future engagement appears now to be to one of limiting people from hearing for themselves what everyone else has to say.  Instead, all feedback will be directly between individual community members and the City. But being aware of others' feedback is critical, since we can't trust the City to accurately reflect the view of the larger community that wants to save Atlanta's trees.

Last August, City Planning presented a summary of the community meeting concept board feedback which was very different from what the community had written in their actual comments on the concept boards. Not surprisingly, the City's own summary of public reaction to the proposed developer-friendly concepts was far more favorable than the community actually was. And, although we've heard the City say at two different community meetings (April 23 and November 6, 2019) that the individual comments behind their summary of community input would be posted online, along with the more than 150 emails and 250 letters they say they have received, City Planning hasn't posted anything. Conversely, we have posted online all comments that we have summarized so that you can see what the people actually wrote verbatim.

While we do think it's a good idea for the City to start posting actual drafts of the ordinance online so that the more technical members of the community can go line-by-line through the drafts and provide their feedback (an hours-long process that we agree isn't best accomplished in large group community meetings), there should be at least one public "check-in" community meeting after each draft rewrite to make sure that the City is capturing the pulse of what the community thinks overall. Closing off this feedback loop makes the rewrite appear less transparent, and increases distrust that certain stakeholder groups may have the ear of the City more than others.

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