Tree Ordinance 2 – The revisiting

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt April 7, 2014
A fallen tree near Adair Dog Park in Decatur, Ga. The tree fell on the night of March 12. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

A fallen tree near Adair Dog Park in Decatur, Ga. The tree fell on the night of March 12. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

Decatur City Commissioners on April 7 reviewed a list of proposed changes to the city’s tree ordinance, a controversial idea that commissioners sent back to the drawing board in January.

The new changes make it easier for residents to remove trees without facing a penalty imposed by the city. Many of the changes that are making it into the revised ordinance were first proposed in early March. The city will publish a draft ordinance, both online and at city hall, on April 8 and will close public comments on that draft on May 2. There will be another City Commission work session on the ordinance on May 5 and commissioners could consider voting on the ordinance on May 19. Decatur will also hire its new arborist in May. Mayor Jim Baskett said the city will need to do that whether the new ordinance passes or not because of all the new development taking place in the city.

To recap some of the changes:

– There is no mandated 50 percent canopy goal. There’s only a no-net loss policy based on the city’s current canopy level, 45 percent. The 50 percent canopy coverage goal will be an aspiration for the city, but not something residents will be required to achieve. The trigger for replanting a tree will be a 15 percent increase in the gross floor area for commercial projects.

– Residents will be able to remove up to three trees in 18 months without penalty. Each time a resident removes a tree, they will be required to submit an informational permit to the city.

– Every project that requires obtaining a land disturbance permit triggers the “no net loss” requirement under the ordinance.

– The ordinance adds language that will require replacing trees removed within 18 months prior to demolition or a development project.

– The city’s arborist will be paid out of the city’s general fund, not the city’s tree bank.

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