Decatur residents gather for meeting about trees
Jeff Lell wasn’t really sure what he was getting himself into.
It began as an off-hand comment on the Decatur Metro blog. Someone suggested a community meeting to discuss the city of Decatur’s plans to enact new laws regulating tree removal. Lell, who comments on Decatur Metro and Decaturish under the name J_T, posted his email and invited people to sign up.
The interest grew and on Sunday, Jan. 26, there were about three dozen people gathered at The Church of Decatur Heights.
“This is a much bigger response than I expected,” Lell said.
The tree ordinance has attracted widespread attention. City Commissioners on Jan. 21 postponed voting on it until March after residents blasted them during the public comments portion of the meeting.
Lell said he wanted to have the meeting to see if there was common ground between opponents of the ordinance and its champions. The ordinance provoked residents who felt that the city was unfairly forcing them to pay thousands to replant trees if they renovated their homes.
The people who were for the ordinance, and there were a few of them who attended Sunday, admit the proposed law has some flaws but said that residential development is decimating Decatur’s tree canopy. Some in the room didn’t see the need for a new tree ordinance, and still others, like Lell, hoped to find a compromise. City Commissioner Fred Boykin attended, but said nothing, and scribbled notes in a legal pad while he listened.
Chad Stogner, who lives in Birmingham, Ala., but owns property in the area, proposed a community-based solution rather than a government imposed one.
“It’s a shame we’ve been divided over the issue of trees,” Stogner said.
He proposed a Decatur Arbor Day Festival, sometime in April, that would promote a goal of planting 366 trees in the city, about 1/10 of the city’s goal of having 50 percent tree canopy cover. Residents could order the trees, cultivated by some of the top-minds in the field.
Stogner’s list of tree experts and providers that he wants to bring on board included:
– Ryan Gainey, a world-famous Garden designer.
– Cooper Sanchez, an artist and gardener
– Deanna Pope Ozio, a landscape architect.
– Cheryl Melton, with Intown Wholesale Nursery
Lell was supportive of the idea.
“Maybe there’s room for one more festival in Decatur,” he said.
After the meeting, there was talk of passing a petition around. The petition would ask commissioners to spend more time crafting the new regulations.