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Brookhaven drafts new tree ordinances
by Christine Fonville
July 23, 2014 12:48 PM | 1979 views | 1 1 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
At a special called work session last week, Brookhaven City Council members were presented with the first draft of a new tree ordinance for the city.

Councilwoman Rebecca Chase Williams said the new ordinance was drafted in order to make the codes more applicable to the city and easier to understand.

“[Brookhaven] inherited DeKalb County’s tree ordinance and while it is not terrible, it is a little confusing, so we want to make sure we are absolutely clear and doing the best job we can to preserve trees and canopy but also have sensible regulations that respect property owner rights as well,” she said.

Williams said she also hopes the new ordinances will encourage smart development and incentives for builders to save trees in the city.

“The city is booming with development and it seems like more trees are coming down as properties develop, so it is important that we protect the great forests we have,” she said. “The tree ordinance will make sure we’re preserving trees while still keeping in mind that homeowners like green grass and soccer fields, so it’s ultimately a balancing act that the city is hoping to achieve.”

A presentation developed by Kay Evanovich, a land development inspector for the city and certified arborist along with Teresa Eldredge, a landscape architect and certified arborist, explained to the council the differences in the county’s tree ordinances and the city’s first draft.

The focal points for why the city needed its own tree ordinances, Evanovich and Eldredge said, stemmed from the existing county codes being intended for large, macro tracts of land, allowing total canopy loss on residential sites, encouraging large tree preservation and including too many complex implementations and calculations.

“The tree survey methods that were established for large counties in the 1980s and those calculations for very large tracts of land were eventually adopted by cities, but those calculations and measurements were really meant for macro areas,” Eldredge said. “In my opinion, Brookhaven needs to look at its trees from the perspective of a small city and that is why we propose looking at trees based on inch replacement units and do away with large density units.”

Eldredge said while the county’s tree ordinances favor saving large trees, many of those species varieties are reaching the end of their life cycle by the time they grow 50 feet or larger and the city’s tree ordinance draft strives for a diversity of very tall and smaller trees.

The draft includes a list of definitions, procedures, enforcements and exemption and tree removal allowances.

In the new ordinances, the removal of five, 10-inch [diameter] or greater trees within a single calendar year will be allowed, however a permit is required with no fee for documentation purposes.

In some cases, alternative compliance for tree removal will be available by contribution to the city’s tree fund, which will be established, according to the new ordinances, to develop a tree survey for the city, purchasing of trees on public sites and education purposes.

“Our next steps will be to take comments from the mayor and council members and incorporate any suggestions and changes they would like to see,” said City Manager Marie Garrett. “It is our plan and intent to place this item on the July 22 city council meeting agenda and post all of the information about the new ordinances to the public and hear our citizens’ suggestions as well before changes are made because we want our ordinances to be more user-friendly than what we had before.”

To read the complete draft and an approved plant list, visit

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Lissie Stahlman
July 26, 2014

For the past two weeks, Brookhaven’s proposed tree ordinance has been reviewed by the City Council, and it appears that they’re in a rush to adopt it as they claim, in order to have an enforceable ordinance.

DeKalb’s ordinance which is currently in place is ignored regularly as evidenced by recent clear cutting on Redding Way in Ashford Park, on Mabry Road in Historic Brookhaven and on two lots on Saybrook Road in Silver Lake to mention a few.

Interesting that at the last CC meeting, Brookhaven’s arborist claimed 25 years experience with DeKalb, yet its ordinance appears too complex for her to enforce.

While the proposed ordinance contains few improvements over DeKalb’s ordinance, the most serious flaws with the proposed ordinance do not concern private property owners, and in spite of explanations to the contrary, the ordinance does not promote preservation but is extremely developer friendly.

A recent slide presentation clearly states, “The purpose of these standards is to facilitate and promote canopy preservation and tree replacement as an integral part of land development and construction process in the City of Brookhaven.” This appears to be an admission that the rules must fit within the plans of those whose sole intention is to build and make money.

Replacement of significant trees with saplings and a tree fund into which developers can pay a pittance to almost completely deforest their property does not promote canopy preservation in any way and will surely rob Brookhaven of much of what makes our city such a unique and healthy place in which to live.

In a recent Brookhaven Neighbor article, Councilwoman Rebecca Chase Williams asserted that we must keep in mind that “homeowners like green grass and soccer fields”. If Brookhaven continues on its current deforestation path, children won’t be able to play on soccer fields or in their yards especially in summer months due to climate extremes. And what will our children climb, two inch saplings?

If you would like to conduct your own comparisons, visit:

Please attend the special meeting on Tuesday, July 29 at 6:30 pm. And please call Mayor Davis and your City Council rep to request more time and weigh in on this crucial issue.

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