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 transparency in terms of 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.
  • Is simple and easy to understand for the layperon.

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 increase community engagement, Trees Atlanta held a 4-week series of public virtual discussions on 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 Ordianance.

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 Committe had planned to review this draft at their meeting on April 27, resceduled that meeting to May 5, and have now cancelled that meeting to be rescheduled at a later date TBD.  

There isn't enough time or manpower to fix the excessive length, disorganization, and redundancies in the City's proposed ordinance – that would take a complete rewrite of their 64 page ordinance to fix – but we do hope our recommendations can help fix the most broken parts of the City's proposed ordinance in order to best protect the overall tree canopy and preserve the rights of Atlanta's residents to be informed and engaged in the tree protection process.

 

What Happened Before This Latest Draft of the Tree Ordinance?

Previously, The Tree Next Door had submitted their feedback on the March 12 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, City Councilmembers J.P. Matzigkeit, District 8, and Matt Westmoreland, Post 2 At-Large, had said they planned to take matters in 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, chair of the Community Development and Human Services (CDHS) Committee which oversees the Arborist Division. said they plan to "reintroduce a 2014 draft rewrite as a starting point". Westmoreland hoped to have a first draft of the new tree ordinance by end of first quarter 2020.

Neither the March 2020 nor the January 2021 draft rewrites look anything like the 2014 draft Westmoreland had said would be their starting point. They may have started with that draft but immediately went off the road.

We hope that Councilmembers Matzigkeit and Westmoreland start taking matters in their own hands like they promised they would do back in December 2019, because City Planning is failing to deliver.

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