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 www.brookhavenga.gov/city-departments/community-development/tree-ordinance-.