Money trees: What Decatur’s tree protection ordinance could have cost you

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt January 23, 2014

The recent discussion about Decatur’s tree ordinance reminded me of this bit from The Simpsons episode “Bart Gets an Elephant.”


Property owners felt like they were blindsided by the policy changes that would’ve required them to plant trees whenever they wanted to remodel their homes.

During the discussion about the ordinance on Jan. 21, Planning Director Amanda Thompson showed city commissioners a spreadsheet of what the ordinance would’ve cost homeowners. I requested a copy and received it today.

Before you look at these spreadsheets, please keep the following things in mind:

– This ordinance didn’t pass on Tuesday. It was deferred for “tweaks.” This spreadsheet shows what the ordinance would’ve cost residential and commercial property owners to replace and plant trees if the ordinance had passed.

– It provides two cost estimates. One estimate shows the cost if the commissioners had approved an ordinance with a citywide canopy goal of 55 percent cover. The other estimate shows the cost if commissioners had approved an ordinance with a citywide canopy goal of 50 percent cover.

– This ordinance was produced by city staff at the request of our elected city commissioners. I know these numbers are eye-popping, but remember: it hasn’t passed yet. Don’t rail at city staff if these numbers enrage you. They are just doing their jobs and now they’re rewriting the ordinance to address the concerns raised at the Jan. 21 meeting.

– If you’re having trouble reading the text, click on the image to bring up a larger version.

Without further ado …



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Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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