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As furor rises over tree cutting in Atlanta, city looks to extend tree-planting program

Horizon site, kolb

A 260-year-old tree was among the trees removed from the site of the former Horizons School, located a few blocks east of the Candler Park neighborhood on DeKalb Avenue. File/Credit: Kathryn Kolb

By David Pendered

Amid the rising furor in Atlanta over the future of the tree canopy as trees are felled for development on a continuing basis, the city is considering allocating $1.7 million to renew contracts with two organizations that plant and help maintain trees on city-controlled land – Trees Atlanta and Tri-Scapes Inc.

Horizon site 2, kolb

A 300-year-old tree was among those cut down during the tree clearing on the site of the former Horizons School, on DeKalb Avenue. File/Credit: Kathryn Kolb

These contracts won’t address the consternation voiced by residents when they see trees cut on private property with scant notice. That’s a matter for the city’s effort to revise the tree ordinance, which included two public meetings this week.

The two contracts are intended to ensure the maintenance of trees on city-owned property and rights-of-way, and that new trees are planted on a regular basis.

The two contracts are to be paid for through the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation. The parks department is charged with maintaining all trees on city property and in the rights-of-way, according to the city’s charter.

Terms of the tree-funding package call for the following:

  • Trees Atlanta – $765,505 for a one-year renewal of a contract to cover costs related to the, “planting and maintenance of trees, improvements to the urban forest and community education….”
  • Tri-Scapes – $917,345 to add funding to a four-year contract for the, “planting and maintenance of trees in the City’s right-of-way and on other City owned property….”

Both proposed contracts received their first reading at Wednesday’s meeting of the Atlanta City Council’s Finance Committee. Both are slated for discussion at the committee’s next scheduled meeting, on May 15 at Atlanta City Hall.

The City Council could vote on the two contracts as early as May 20.

The council approved the current contract with Trees Atlanta at its Sept. 4, 2018 meeting. Terms included a one-year contract with a price not to exceed $765,505. A one-year renewal option was included at the sole discretion of the city.

Horizon site, kolb

A 260-year-old tree was among the trees removed from the site of the former Horizons School, located a few blocks east of the Candler Park neighborhood on DeKalb Avenue. File/Credit: Kathryn Kolb

The council approved the current contract with Tri-Scapes at its Oct. 17, 2016 meeting. Terms included a four-year contract with one, four-year renewal option. In addition to planting, Tri-Scape’s original contract called for the company to remove tree stumps that hinder the planting of new trees:

  • “The City has a substantial backlog of large tree stumps requiring grinding to improve real estate curb appeal, as well as free space for replacement tree plantings….”

Meanwhile, Atlanta’s Department of City Planning is gathering responses from residents on a planned upgrade of the city’s tree ordinance. The first two meetings occurred Tuesday and Wednesday, one in Northwest Atlanta and one in Southwest Atlanta.

The calendar calls for work on the proposed revision of the tree ordinance to continue through the summer:

  • May – Stakeholder and technical advisory committees meet;
  • June – Work session on the first draft of a tree protection ordinance; citywide public forums; a council work session; and a presentation by the Green Infrastructure Task Force;
  • July and August – Work session on the second draft of a tree protection ordinance; city-wide public forums; stakeholder and technical advisory committees meet.

Final adoption is expected by the end of this year on a new code that is expected to strike a balance between the preservation of trees and the cutting of trees for development.

Unlike past discussions over revising the tree ordinance, which reached an impasse, Atlanta Planning Commissioner Tim Keane has said this one will be guided by the city’s well-received long-range visioning document, Atlanta City Design. Keane expects the document will enable various constituencies to reach an agreement.




David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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1 Comment

  1. Homeless in the Atl April 25, 2019 10:11 pm

    what kind of greedy f’in developer would cut down a 260 year old tree? I understand the money part but think about the greed……ID love to know who the developer was that made this decision.Report


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