Building boom: Can Atlanta’s tree ‘massacre’ be stopped?

Photograph by Chris Joyner

Photograph by Chris Joyner

By Chris Joyner

Greg Levine, co-executive director of Trees Atlanta, said the problem is that local tree ordinances don’t protect trees, they just put a price on them.

“Right now the city can’t make (developers) save trees. They can just make them pay the fee,” he said. “We get a phone call about trees being removed almost every single day for the last several months. People are upset about it.”

In Atlanta, it costs developers $100 to take down a tree plus $30 for each inch of the tree’s diameter taken at chest height. So an oak tree measuring 30 inches in diameter would cost $1,000 in “recompense” to take down. But the city’s ordinance allows developers to back off some of that cost by replanting young trees to replace the lost mature trees.

“The current ordinance is a very good ordinance, but it isn’t saving trees,” Levine said. “If you go to Chastain Park, it’s like a massacre.”