Environment

Small Change To Atlanta Tree Regulation Makes Both Advocates And Developers Happy

The City Council delayed a work session to dig into a tree protection ordinance, but it did make a change to how the city considers trees in its permitting process.
The City Council delayed a work session to dig into a tree protection ordinance, but it did make a change to how the city considers trees in its permitting process.
Credit Al Such / WABE
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The City of Atlanta has been talking for years about making changes to its tree protection ordinance, the rule that guides developers and homeowners on what trees can be cut down.

This week, City Council delayed a work session to dig into the ordinance itself, but it did make a change to how the city considers trees in its permitting process.

Starting in July, trees will be considered earlier in the city’s building permit application process. Councilwoman Natalyn Archibong, who introduced the resolution, said that in the past, the tree review was towards the end of the process.

“What we’ve done is we flipped it so the possibilities around protecting the trees happens earlier rather than later,” she said. “We’ve got to do everything we can to protect our tree canopy, and the best way to do that is not treat it as almost an afterthought, but as a priority.”

The change is a positive step that will help save trees, said Greg Levine, co-director of Trees Atlanta. He’s pushed for revisions to the tree protection ordinance.

“The city’s changing too quickly. We’re losing canopy too quickly,” Levine said.

The city says its goal is to have 50 percent canopy cover. As of 2014, it had 47 percent.

Van Hardimon, owner of Van Hardimon homes, a single-family home developer in Northwest Atlanta, said from his perspective, the current tree protection ordinance works.

“We’ve become accustomed to working with the existing ordinance,” said Van Hardimon, who’s the president of the Greater Atlanta Home Builder Association’s Inner Atlanta Chapter, and has been involved in the tree protection ordinance rewrite.

But he’s fine with the resolution passed on Monday, and says it won’t have an effect on his business.

“If anything, it actually may help us as builders and developers to understand how to get on the same page with the arborist earlier in the process,” he said.

A previously scheduled work session on the tree ordinance got pushed back from this week until August.

Archibong said she hopes a new ordinance will be in place by the end of the year.