Decatur residents gather for meeting about trees

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt January 26, 2014
Jeff Lell, a local attorney, speaks to an informal gathering of Decatur residents on Jan. 26, 2014, held at The Church at Decatur Heights. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

Jeff Lell, a local attorney, speaks to an informal gathering of Decatur residents on Jan. 26, 2014, held at The Church at Decatur Heights. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

Jeff Lell wasn’t really sure what he was getting himself into.

It began as an off-hand comment on the Decatur Metro blog. Someone suggested a community meeting to discuss the city of Decatur’s plans to enact new laws regulating tree removal. Lell, who comments on Decatur Metro and Decaturish under the name J_T, posted his email and invited people to sign up.

The interest grew and on Sunday, Jan. 26, there were about three dozen people gathered at The Church of Decatur Heights.

“This is a much bigger response than I expected,” Lell said.

The tree ordinance has attracted widespread attention. City Commissioners on Jan. 21 postponed voting on it until March after residents blasted them during the public comments portion of the meeting.

Lell said he wanted to have the meeting to see if there was common ground between opponents of the ordinance and its champions. The ordinance provoked residents who felt that the city was unfairly forcing them to pay thousands to replant trees if they renovated their homes.

The people who were for the ordinance, and there were a few of them who attended Sunday, admit the proposed law has some flaws but said that residential development is decimating Decatur’s tree canopy. Some in the room didn’t see the need for a new tree ordinance, and still others, like Lell, hoped to find a compromise. City Commissioner Fred Boykin attended, but said nothing, and scribbled notes in a legal pad while he listened.

Chad Stogner, who lives in Birmingham, Ala., but owns property in the area, proposed a community-based solution rather than a government imposed one.

“It’s a shame we’ve been divided over the issue of trees,” Stogner said.

He proposed a Decatur Arbor Day Festival, sometime in April, that would promote a goal of planting 366 trees in the city, about 1/10 of the city’s goal of having 50 percent tree canopy cover. Residents could order the trees, cultivated by some of the top-minds in the field.

Stogner’s list of tree experts and providers that he wants to bring on board included:

– Ryan Gainey, a world-famous Garden designer.

– Cooper Sanchez, an artist and gardener

– Deanna Pope Ozio, a landscape architect.

– Cheryl Melton, with Intown Wholesale Nursery

Lell was supportive of the idea.

“Maybe there’s room for one more festival in Decatur,” he said.

After the meeting, there was talk of passing a petition around. The petition would ask commissioners to spend more time crafting the new regulations.

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Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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  • Chadwick Stogner

    Dan- the Festival Dates are already set to coincide with both Georgia Arbor Day ( Feb 21st)- when orders for trees can start being placed, and National Arbor Day (April 25th) when we will have a community planting event over that weekend. There will be a formal announcement in the next couple of days with more information. Anyone who would like to get involved in the project can contact me at chad(at)elegantearth(dot)com .

    • Thanks for the follow-up, Chad. 🙂

      • Chadwick Stogner

        I would also like to say that I have lived in and around Decatur for most of my life- and because my business relocated to Birmingham in a merger I might not technically be a current citizen , but I am most certainly “Decaturish”!

  • Slade Austin

    What is the issue? You can plant a good tree that will not cost more than $30.00, maybe less. Not thousands as some have intoned. It will reduce your home energy bill by much more every month.

    Besides, you need the O2 that the tree provides for your children to live. There are many other eco-services that the tree provides.

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