Documents – Read latest draft of tree ordinance

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt May 9, 2014
Backyard water oak. Photo by Kathryn Kolb, courtesy of Trees Decatur

Backyard water oak. Photo by Kathryn Kolb, courtesy of Trees Decatur

The city of Decatur on May 9 released an updated draft of a proposed tree ordinance that will provide more oversight over tree removal in the city.

City Commissioners will consider adopting it on May 19 at 7:30 pm, a notice from the city says.

“The purpose of the update is to modernize the existing ordinance which was developed in 1988, and encourage the conservation of existing tree canopy,” the notice says. “Regulation of tree cover is one of several approaches being used by the city to manage the community forest.”

Here are the documents provided by the city:

O 14 AA Tree Conservation Ordinance 050914


Current Tree Protection Strategies

Decatur Tree Facts

Development Impact on Trees

Tree Species List

Trees! Work Session Presentation May 2014

The notice also has a subsection titled, “What are the impacts on residents?”

According to the city:

Under the revised draft, owners may remove up to 3 protected trees every 18 months. Homeowners will be required to fill out a free, informational permit which will allow the City to track tree canopy. A protected tree is defined as having a 6 inches or greater diameter at breast height.  If protected tree removal is part of a project that requires a land development permit or is the 4th or greater protected tree removal within 18 months, then the owner must document the existing tree canopy cover and maintain the same amount of tree canopy once the project is complete. For example, if a property has 40% tree canopy cover and the owner decides to build an addition that will cause the removal of a 12” tree with 600 square feet of tree canopy, then the owner will have to plant  600 square feet of new tree canopy cover.

The city’s tree ordinance traveled a long way to get to this point. City Commissioners first started looking at the ordinance in October of 2013 and enacted a 90 day moratorium on tree removal. The moratorium ended Jan. 24, three days after city commissioners scrapped the first version of the ordinance after a public outcry.

The May 19 meeting will be held at city hall, located at 509 North McDonough Street.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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  • Chris Billingsley

    Thanks Dan. Still seems a little too complicated to me. I was at the last commission meeting where the planning director tried to explain the tree canopy thing. Now the commissioners are a pretty smart group but even they seem to struggle understanding the proposed rules. I support KISS: Keep It Simple Spruces!

  • Peter in Decatur

    Why no mention of the results of the second open city hall session where the majority of the respondents once again voiced overwhelming opposition? I thought that was supposed to be an official avenue for public comment. The commissioners again looked quickly past this, even though their jobs and salaries are dependent on us and they are subsequently supposed to represent our will.

    If the open city hall results are going to be consistently ignored, then we need either new commissioners or to stop wasting tax money on the program.

    I also find it interesting that the small group pushing for this is lead by Decatur-based environmental consultants and arborists. Seems like a financial conflict of interest to me.

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