Key Issues

This category contains general information about advocacy at The Tree Next Door.

14 Key Issues City Needs To Address

The following fourteen issues are the ones that The Tree Next Door believes are the most important for the city to address.  These issues were presented  a number of years ago to the Commissioner of the Department of Development and the Arborcultural Manager, which was covered by The Buckhead Reporter.  Although these positions have turned over several times since then -- as well as at least two rewrites of the tree ordinance that have never been implemented -- these issues still exist almost a decade later.

  1. We strongly believe that enforcement of the present Tree Protection Ordinance should be the most important focus of the City's Arborist Division.
  2. Site plans submitted often do not mirror the actual site, nor list accurately the number, size, placement of many trees and does not include boundary trees which will be impacted.
    • Field arborists do not take the site plan and validate or correct it, nor do they require a new site plan go through the entire posting process again if the site plan is proven inaccurate to them after walking the site.
    • Third party producers of site plans regularly submit inaccurate and/or incomplete or faulty plans. Those who are repeat offenders should be required to have training on the tree protection ordinance and should then go through a more intense review process prior to any future approvals.
  3. Dead, dying, diseased and hazardous trees (DDD&H) – this designation allows for field arborists to bypass the system without any review for validation. It is a loophole in which healthy trees are being removed without appeal because appropriate standards of practice are not being followed. This occurs too frequently. Recompense is inadequate.
  4. Field arborists do not know the ordinance and citizens find it very difficult to understand and often are not aware of it at all.
  5. The appeal process does not allow a citizen to have more than 5 business days to learn the system, pay $75, pay to get copies from the city (which can not find all the papers and site plans within a day), and write an appeal citing code. The submitter can have the original request posted for months on end before moving to the notice allowing for appeal giving the community no way to do its job and appeal appropriately.
  6. The Arborist Division does not track the total amount of trees removed from a single property over several projects and tree removal requests. Thus one property can be clear cut by doing several different submissions; each judged independently of the last project. An accumulative review of tree removal and adherence to the ordinance should be part of the standards of practice followed for each tree removal request.
  7. Builders, architects, landscapers, etc. add in recompense for illegal tree removal into their original budgets and think it is just part of the process to pay for. It is inadequate and does not prevent the removal of healthy trees. Plans are often not done with the idea of protecting Atlanta’s tree canopy.
  8. Field arborists should use the standards of practice in determining the number of trees that will be recompensed. They currently are arbitrary in arriving at that recompense number. We believe recompense fees need to encourage the developer/owner to save as many mature trees as possible.
  9. In the effort to first improve on enforcement of the present tree protection ordinance our goal is to see a method of adding or making changes through addendums that “clarify” to avoid having to go through a convoluted legal process.
  10. How do we get the Bureau of Buildings and the Arborist Division to follow the formal process for consumer complaints regarding falsifying records, no enforcement of the ordinance, and impact on their performance review and personnel file?
  11. Tree cutters need to be held accountable for both recompense and penalty if they cut down trees illegally or call a tree DDD&H when it’s not. Also, there should be consequences for all involved if multiple infractions of standards, law or code occur such that rights to apply for future permits or licenses are impacted.
  12. Often NPUs or citizens negotiate with the party requesting a tree removal permit and an agreement is found to save more trees than the site plan shows for removal. Always, the arborist is a part of this process in our experience. The arborist should require a new permit along with new postings, and have all parties sign off on to the changes agreed upon. Or, the arborist should inform the involved groups if the changes will not be enforced giving those parties ample time to prepare for appeal.
  13. The posting of permits is not being done which causes unnecessary phone calls to the arborist division by concerned citizens. Make tree cutters post the permit at the site visible from the street.
  14. The Arborist Division's placement in the Bureau of Buildings sets up the potential for conflicts of interest and often prevents the arborists from doing their jobs.

How We Advocate

The Tree Next Door's mission of advocacy is to ensure that Atlanta’s Tree Protection Ordinance and arboricultural standards be enforced as written. To that end, we will provide assistance, identify resources, and act as a liaison between citizens, developers, and the City.  At the same time, we will identify weaknesses in the ordinance and its enforcement procedures and advocate and organize to eliminate them.


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