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Atlanta’s tree ordinance: Final public forums slated before final draft written

old growth forest remnant Beecher Hills, Kolb

This canopy in Lionel Hampton Beecher Hills Nature Preserve represents the canopy of Westside Atlanta, which is one of the highest-valued forests in Atlanta. File/Credit: Kathryn Kolb

By David Pendered

Atlanta’s potential tree ordinance is nearing completion, as next week the city is to convene the second and final round of city-wide public forums before a final draft ordinance is to be presented to the public in July or August.

old growth forest remnant Beecher Hills, Kolb

This canopy in Lionel Hampton Beecher Hills Nature Preserve represents the canopy of Westside Atlanta, which is one of the highest-valued forests in Atlanta. File/Credit: Kathryn Kolb

Four forums are slated next week – starting Monday and concluding Thursday. City officials are slated to release at the forums an outline of the first draft of the potential tree ordinance.

Dates, times and locations of the four meetings are in a note at the bottom of this story.

Atlanta Planning Commissioner Tim Keane has sought to shape the discussion about a potential tree protection ordinance around the broader guidelines devised in the city’s Urban Ecology Framework. The framework is part of the fabric of the city’s long-range visioning document, The Atlanta City Design: Aspiring to the Beloved Community.

Attention to the city’s tree ordinance has not faded in the months since residents complained loudly about what they viewed as rampant tree removal to facilitate residential development.

The Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods was one forum where residents gathered in a church meeting room, on Jan. 10, to express concern over the city’s handling of trees. The BNC’s board voted unanimously to adopt a resolution calling on the city to enforce the tree ordinance.

On Wednesday, the BNC released a statement indicating that its attention has not wandered. The group noted that a large turnout at the forums next week may be a factor into the level of consideration the Atlanta City Council gives the tree issue.

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

“City Council is watching closely,” deLille Anthony, chair of the organization’s Buckhead Tree Canopy Committee, said in a statement.“If a large crowd shows up at these meetings, Atlanta leaders will get the message that people are ready for a change as development escalates in Buckhead and across the City.

“About 77 percent of Atlanta’s tree canopy is on single family lots, which is why residential properties must be protected,” Anthony said.

Kathryn Kolb, a naturalist who serves as director of EcoAddendum and also consults with communities on tree ordinances, wrote a guest column published April 7 in saportareport.com. Kolb addressed the pending tree ordinance and observed:

  • “We are indeed the City in the Forest, and unlike other cities, we still have the opportunity to hold onto our great trees and urban forest, even as our city grows. But that opportunity is fleeting – the majority of Atlanta’s renowned canopy is threatened, and we watch a little more of it disappear everyday.
  • “We are at a serious crossroads in how human communities interface with nature. Atlanta is known internationally for its legacy in leading the world in civil and human rights. And now it has the opportunity to lead on the right side of history for the environment, setting a global model, right here at home.”

For it’s part, the city’s official position on the future of its tree canopy identifies what the plan calls “key actions” to restore the city’s tree canopy to at least 50 percent. The measures include:

“Key Actions

100+ year old tree on Arbor Ave not protected from new construction, Kolb

A white oak reaches from the land toward the sky on Atlanta’s Arbor Avenue. File/Credit: Kathryn Kolb

  • “Protection of existing tree canopy using the previously identified protection zones
  • “Major young forest initiative to plant 3,600 new acres of trees and manage to maturity
  • “Annual replacement of dead trees outside forests.
  • “City wide public realm tree inventory to inform new planting and management
  • “Assessment of tree mortality and demographics to track trajectory of forest and planted public realm trees.”

Note to readers: The schedule of public meetings consists of:

  • June 3, Monday: 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Metropolitan Library, 1332 Metropolitan Parkway;
  • June 4, Tuesday: 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Church of the Master Presbyterian, 3400 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive;
  • June 5, Wednesday: 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Neighborhood Church, 1561 McLendon Ave.;
  • June 6, Thursday: 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Trinity Presbyterian Church, 3003 Howell Mill Road.



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. Stephen Falkner May 30, 2019 8:16 am

    It is criminal what out of town developers are doing to the tree canopy of this beautiful city. We don’t have the ocean or the mountains, all we have are the trees. Without these the temperature will continue to rise and the smog will be worse than ever. The city has a moral obligation to protect the trees and it’s current residents.Report


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