Progress Report for Atlanta’s Tree Protection Ordinance Rewrite
On August 22, the Atlanta City Council conducted a committee “work session” to review the Tree Protection Ordinance draft update. (The Community Development/Human Services Committee’s 2019 Goals and Objectives includes: “3. Adopt tree ordinance rewrite.”) The rewrite project is managed by the Department of City Planning, including the Arborist Division of the Office of Buildings and external consultants.
The Councilmembers’ questions and comments to Commissioner Tim Keane reflected the concerns of their district, including the cost for large scale public projects and for low-income residents, as well as “trees coming down on Saturday” — referring to the practice of illegally removing trees without permits.
Councilmember Marci Overstreet asked, “Where’s the draft?” In response, Commissioner Keane provided an overview of the rewrite team’s progress and a new schedule of deadlines was set: the first draft will be delivered on November 1 with a final product estimated for February 2020.
Over 80 attendees filled the council chambers where dozens of statements were made by the public for the committee’s consideration. The majority who advocated for stronger tree protection cited the positive benefits of trees on people’s health and environmental benefits, including being an important factor to counter damage from stormwater runoff, heat island effect, and climate change. In particular, they cited the need for better enforcement and regular reporting on tree permit and removal data (as required by the current ordinance). A representation of builders also expressed their priorities, particularly for maintaining the ability to remove trees on the “buildable area.”
All of the publicly available presentations and fact sheets from the Department of Planning are available on the city’s website as part of their Urban Ecology Framework. A summary of public comments received by the city is also now available.
Trees Atlanta has responded to public information shared by the project team, including these recommendations that we sent along with over 250 letters from residents and tree advocates:
- Trees Atlanta Response to the Draft Outline (6/17/19)
- Concepts for Draft: Tree Protection Ordinance rewrite Recommendations (8/12/19)
We believe that a stronger tree ordinance means updated standards that do not lessen current protection: first, do no harm. Our call to action for the rewrite team and the City Council remains to create an ordinance that allows us to: save existing trees, plant more trees, and buy forested land. These standards will ensure that we can achieve the city’s goal of 50% canopy.
How we steward our environment, in particular our trees, depends on our engagement and an effective tree protection ordinance. We strongly encourage you to continue to call and write to your City Council, Commissioner Keane, and the ordinance rewrite team.
Source: City of Atlanta, Department of City Planning; Aaron Coury