The current Atlanta Tree Ordinance requires changes to effectively preserve our urban forest. However, in addition to that, our current ordinance is not being properly enforced.
Call or write the parties below to tell them that our Tree Ordinance must be enforced.
David Zaparanik, Arboricultural Manager
Tim Keane, Commissioner of Planning
Unenforced Sections of the Tree Protection Ordinance
The Tree Next Door is presently working with the Arborist Division and Tree Conservation Commission to correct these ordinance violations. A status update as to our progress is linked below each item in red. If there is no status update, no progress has been made or no status update is available.
1. “Saved” trees are being destroyed.
This section mandates an on-site conference between the developer and the arborist for a final tree fence inspection before demolition, grading, or construction begins. With no pre-construction conferences, developers have been allowed to grade lots, cut down trees, and refuse to put up tree fences, often before the preliminary approval of tree removal (yellow sign posting) is completed.
This section provides for more substantial wood or steel tree fencing on heavy construction sites or upon multiple violations. Metal fencing has proven to be very effective, but the arborist office rarely requires it for tree fence violations. And even when it is required, contractors often remove or shift the fences, resulting in destroyed trees.
2. Destroyed trees aren’t being counted.
This section requires a quarterly report showing the total number and DBH of trees removed by various categories, including dead/dying/diseased/hazardous trees. The City Arborist Division used to produce these quarterly reports, but no longer does. Now we don’t know how many trees are being destroyed and why. And we don’t know how much money has been paid into the Tree Trust Fund via recompense fees and illegal tree cutting fines. How can the Arborist Division keep track of the resources that it is supposed to protect and replant without any data?
3. We don’t know about planned tree removals.
This section ensures that notice of preliminary approvals for tree cutting be posted in 1) the office of the city arborist that issued the approval (Office of Planning or Office of Parks), 2) the City of Atlanta website (www.atlantaga.gov), and 3) on the property affected so that it may be seen and read by passers-by. Presently, for trees on private property, there is no posting in either the Office of Planning or on the city website. The only way to know if there are plans to remove a tree on private property is to drive by the yellow sign posted on the property.
4. No one is planning for Atlanta’s future tree canopy.
This section states that the Tree Conservation Commission is to consult with the city forester in the preparation of the master plan for the trees in the city. Most cities have a master plan which include tree inventories, recommended species of trees, future planning, and attention to special sections of the city, like watersheds, that need tree attention. Although the Tree Conservation Commission has, within the last two years, contracted satellite imaging of the city trees, Atlanta is doing no overall tree planning. There is no master plan.
5. Standards are not being consistently followed.
This section says that the Tree Conservation Commission is to review and approve the required city arboricultural specifications and standards of practice (SOPs). Until 2011, the Arborist Division had followed prescribed SOPs for such functions as assessing tree health, posting tree removal signs, and keeping field books. Presently, it appears that there is no set of SOPs being consistently followed, other than how to enter data into Accela, the City’s online services application.