What To Do if You See a Yellow Sign

yellow signIf upon review of the site plan a city official determines that trees must be removed, injured, or destroyed during construction, a “Preliminary Approval” posting is made by posting a yellow sign for a minimum of 7 business days on private property and 15 calendar days on public property, as well as on the Arborist Division online list of sign postings. The yellow sign posting process must be followed and the site plans must match the actual site conditions with the affected trees marked prominently in orange paint.

If you see a yellow sign, IMMEDIATELY contact the City Arborist Office (contact: Kathryn Evans, Administrative Analyst, 404-330-6235) to obtain a copy of the site plan as well as a copy of the preliminary approval that was issued to remove or injure trees.  Any appeal you may wish to make to this preliminary approval must be made by the deadline noted on the sign.

An appeal to the preliminary posting must be based on evidence that a decision by a city official misinterpreted or misapplied specific sections of the Tree Protection Ordinance.  An appeal is not directed toward the property owner but to the Tree Commission, which determines whether any sections of the ordinance were misinterpreted or misapplied in granting the permit.  A $75 administrative fee or a detailed and signed “hardship” letter must accompany the appeal.  You can download a copy of the City’s instructions and the online form to complete to file your appeal.

Appeals regarding trees on private property may be made by anyone who 1) owns property or resides within the neighborhood planning unit (NPU) in which the property is located or 2) within 500 feet of the property.  Appeals regarding trees on public property may be made by 1) any citizen of Atlanta, 2) any owner of a property or a business in Atlanta, or 3) any civic organization in the NPU in which the trees are located.

After an appeal is filed, any activity authorized by the decision under appeal is stopped: "no permits shall be issued, no trees cut, nor earth disturbed.”  The clerk sets a hearing date and will notify the person who filed the appeal and the property owner.

At least two weeks prior to the hearing the filer of the appeal and other interested parties must submit in writing their detailed appeal(s).  At minimum, the appeal should include the sections of the tree ordinance that have been misinterpreted or misapplied in granting the preliminary approval.  Within one week of the hearing, all rebuttal arguments and evidence must be submitted in writing.  New evidence that emerges during the week prior to the hearing may be submitted at the hearing if it could not have been obtained earlier.

Often, the property owner or developer will contact the appellant directly to discuss the appellant's concerns.  We encourage you to listen to what the property owner/developer has to say but to keep moving forward with the appeal if any aspect of the ordinance is being violated by the preliminary posting.  You should not drop an appeal because a property owner/developer attempts to persuade you to overlook the violation in order to be a “good neighbor”.  We have seen many tactics used to persuade an appellant to drop an appeal, the most common one being to tell the appellant that this is not an investment home, but one the builder plans to move into.  Although rare, there have also been reports of threats towards the appellant. Any threats involving trespassing, bodily harm, or destruction of property should be immediately reported to the City Arborist and the City Police. Again, you should focus on upholding the Tree Protection Ordinance and not trying to appease the property owner whose primary concern is that your appeal is delaying their project.

If you file an appeal but are unable to provide any facts that could be brought forth at a hearing that could sustain such an appeal, then the appeal can be declared frivolous by a vote of the Tree Conservation Commission in advance of the hearing.  Often the property owner/developer will claim that an appeal is frivolous in hopes that the Commission dismisses it in advance of the hearing. However, the Commission will always hear your case if you are able to cite how the Tree Protection Ordinance has been misinterpreted or misapplied.

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