Rewrite Update

On January 21, 2021, City Planning released their revised Tree Protection ordinance and held a Work Session on the draft on February 17 (slide show found here). This is the draft that should have been presented last summer according to an updated schedule they released shortly after their first draft was released on March 12, 2020.  Public feedback to this latest draft was even more negative than the feedback they received to their March 12, 2020 draft because, after two attempts, it appears that City Planning is either unable or unwilling to produce a draft that:

  • Saves the tree canopy overall, as opposed to just a handful of the best trees or a few urban forests.
  • Provides timely information about when and where trees are coming down in our community.
  • Allows the right to appeal when there is evidence that a city arborist's decision misinterpreted or misapplied the Tree Protection Ordinance.
  • Stops an excessive about of trees being removed as dead, dying, or hazardous (DDH).
  • Provides for meaningful enforcement to reduce illegal tree destruction.
  • Is simple and easy for the layperson to understand.

In February 2021, the Tree Next Door provided a list of the Top 20 reasons why this latest draft is unacceptable and is even worse than our current ordinance. On May 3, 2021, after consulting extensively with other stakeholders in the tree ordinance, we published our list of recommendations on how to fix the City's proposed Ordinance.  To simplify things further for those who want just the key points, we put together a brief "Top Ten Things That Must Be Fixed" document.

To increase community engagement, Trees Atlanta held a 4-week series of public virtual discussions each Thursday from March 18 to April 8 to explain the changes to the City's proposed new ordinance and review the changes they would like to see in the proposed Ordinance.

On April 22, 2021, Livable Buckhead released a letter they sent to the Committee on Community Development and Human Services (CDHS) offering their proposed recommendations for the City's proposed Ordinance.

The CDHS Committee had planned to review this draft at their meeting on April 27, but rescheduled that meeting to May 5, and have now canceled that meeting to be rescheduled at a later date TBD.  Since then, Councilmember Matt Westmoreland, chair of the Community Development and Human Services (CDHS) Committee which oversees the Arborist Division, has indicated his desire to pass a new tree ordinance (not the one released in January) before the election. Westmoreland has stated that he plans to release a modified version of the City's Planning Department's latest ordinance within the coming month (end of July/beginning of August 2021). Councilmembers Jennifer Ide and J.P. Matsigkeit have been working with Westmoreland to include in this version as much feedback as possible from the various interested parties while scaling it back to a more manageable length. 

Once the modified version of the City's ordinance has been released, Westmoreland plans to call for a City Council Work Session with a subsequent City Council vote proceeding very quickly after the modified ordinance is released.  We do hope that our recommendations will be included in the new tree ordinance that Westmoreland puts forth to City Council.

What Happened Before This Latest Draft of the Tree Ordinance?

Previously, The Tree Next Door had submitted their feedback on the March 12, 2020 first draft of the new Tree Protection Ordinance, which deviated considerably from the 2014 draft that Councilmember Matt Westmoreland had said the previous December that they would use.

Prior to the first draft in March, Councilmembers J.P. Matzigkeit, District 8, and Matt Westmoreland, Post 2 At-Large, had said they planned to take matters into their own hands since, after a year of struggling to rewrite the Tree Protection Ordinance, the Department of City Planning hadn't delivered.

"They haven't provided details to me about that or what [the planning department] is planning to do," said Matzigkeit in a December 27, 2019 Reporter Newspapers article. "Our preference would be to work with the administration to get something in place, but we want to get something in place."

Westmoreland said they plan to "reintroduce a 2014 draft rewrite as a starting point". Westmoreland had expressed hopes to have a first draft of the new tree ordinance by end of first quarter 2020 which he did deliver on.  However, neither the March 2020 nor the January 2021 draft rewrites look anything like the 2014 draft Westmoreland had said would be their starting point.

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