Dear Decaturish, Project is ‘environmental abortion’

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt June 27, 2014
Photo obtained via Save This Tree Decatur Facebook page.

Photo obtained via Save This Tree Decatur Facebook page. accepts letters to the editor for publication. This letter was addressed to Chris Rudd, president of Thrive Homes, the developer behind a townhomes project at 109 Hibernia Avenue in Decatur, Ga. Jennifer Lloyd, with Save This Tree Decatur, has protested the removal of trees on the property, including a 100-year-old oak. She wrote this letter to Rudd in response to the removal of trees and submitted it for publication. In the interest of fairness, we have invited Mr. Rudd to respond to this letter. Submit letters to the editor to 

Mr. Rudd,

I so very much appreciate (not) your getting back to me on the above issue. As you are well aware, I did everything I could, shy of trespassing, to stop this massacre from happening…and indeed it was, as birds were killed, injured, dropping to the ground, and nests were chopped down without your guys even looking first or seeing it happen (and I witnessed it all and have it on videotape). In addition, owl holes in limbs dropped to the ground, and later into the night, two screech owls were giving distress calls from the border trees, not knowing where to go, as of course, their young were in the historical oak.

I also saw a mother robin and one of her surviving fledglings flee to, ironically enough, my yard, having no refuge. Thankfully, one of your very nice and intelligent tree guys (whom I spoke to at length yesterday) knows exactly about what is harmed in these procedures. During my absence later in the day, apparently a neighbor took one of the baby birds that had been thrown from her nest only to fall to the ground, causing the death of the rest. Not just robins and wrens, but as I made you and Thrive aware of in the proposal, squirrels, owls, and cavity birds, etc. such as blue birds, nuthatches and woodpeckers.

Along with this Soylent Green-type environmental abortion, we had to watch the huge evergreen tree come crashing down, which, as I also mentioned to you in my proposal, was full of nuthatches and woodpeckers.

Most Rosewalk neighbors are, quite frankly, infuriated, others wish to turn a blind eye to the destruction. I can’t say I blame them. Many of us who were prepared to save the wildlife you have killed have been willing to stand “on call,” if you will, while anticipating your response as to when we could come in. I do not understand, why in the world, you didn’t let us. The majority of us are shocked by the crew that came in unexpectedly yesterday and started to cut down what turns out to be eight trees (if my math is correct), some of which were, no doubt, on my neighbor’s property (if you haven’t heard from her already, you will). They were beautiful, red bud trees that we all looked forward to seeing every spring—not large and obtrusive whatsoever.

Neighbors are now discussing distributing birdseed and putting up houses for all the displaced birds. As we speak, tree number seven is coming down in front of my next door neighbor’s house and nobody had any idea these border trees were coming down. I feel terrible for them, as the land around them is now being disrupted on both sides without any person coming to warn them of the disturbance to come. That wouldn’t have been so difficult to do, for your crew or the City of Decatur, given this came out of nowhere. I now believe this was kept under wraps for a reason.

I was told no border trees were coming down, and I attended the most recent City of Decatur tree ordinance meeting to confirm such with folks. … It’s a sad mess. Those who live right against your property are, literally, now being blinded by the lack of tree canopy and I can almost guarantee are wondering just what is next, in terms of how close your buildings will collide with theirs.

I almost never write in anger, but this time…I had no choice. We were all fooled. And, as you know, I spent countless hours writing a proposal to you and the City of Decatur. I was told by them you wished to deal with me directly (I realize why that was done). I touched base with you twice via e-mail and called only to get no response ever.

And now, we are left with owls, birds, squirrels, raccoons, etc. without homes, some of which were, most certainly, killed, others requiring rescue on the fly…and still others out there trying to find a place to go for now.

I, personally, had to deal with a baby opossum on my back porch last night, and the week before, carpenter ants the size of roaches that I haven’t seen in my 10 years of living here. Another neighbor is having extreme issues with raccoons, and there is probably much yet to been seen. And so it goes, yet another ecosystem destroyed that will, in turn, destroy the balance of more to come in this area.

People are planning to move, I being one of them. I suppose that will provide you with more potential property to usurp.

Jennifer A. Lloyd

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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  • adventuresome

    Awful business, how is it developers can get away with this? And why are they permitting and approving developments like these? Decatur schools are full to the brim. The city admitted that almost everyone moving in will be utilizing the schools, so why approve a high density development? We need parks and trees, this is an abomination that is pushing out long time residents who will only make way for more kids that the city can not possibly serve well in overcrowded schools. Vicious cycle that needs to stop.

  • CommonSense

    Dear Decaturish, please protect the rights of property owners in Decatur, not bend to the wishes of activists.
    High density development reduces our carbon footprint.
    However, if parkland is what is desired, this land could have been purchased for use as a park ($670k I think). The city could have borrowed the money for the purchase, and paid on the debt for way less than the cost of hiring an arborist. Bad priorities Decatur.

  • Oakhurst Rez

    I have yet to understand why local ‘activist’ always want to blame home builders for incidents such as these. They are simply carrying out what the City is allowing them to do; to develop within the confines of planned living set forth by our city planners. I enjoy and respect the flora and fauna as well but what do you want Chris to do? Climb up into the tree and remove the birds? Thats the problem here, its all rhetoric. What are your ideas or solutions to the problem? You have offered nothing. Would you have climbed into the tree and rescued the birds? Would you have the city of Decatur not allow Thrive to build on the lot because of the presence of the birds, raccoons, etc.?

    I am not an arborist, but I am sure you are aware that trees have lifespans as well and from the picture above, that Oak looked like it was not far from killing over on top of the adjacent house. Not to mention that for every tree that is removed, (4) more will be planted. The fact that the owls and other birds have taken shelter ‘inside’ the tree already suggest that the structural integrity has already been compromised and might have been a safety issue as well. If that tree had fallen over and killed someone, which odd as it may seem does happen several times a year in Georgia, would your narrative change? Outrage that we live in danger of trees falling on us and that the city should held responsible?

    As I have posted before on this blog with issues such as these, I find it amusing the NIMBY attitudes of some against the backdrop of the ‘progressiveness’ often attributed to the City of Decatur.

    Mrs. Lloyd please take no personal offense, I am just balancing rationality over emotion since we haven’t heard, as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story”

    • Rabbit47

      Smart, if sneaky, ploy to anoint oneself as the “rational” one and one’s opponent as the “emotional” one. You state she should take no personal offense while you are personnally attacking her.

  • adairstreet

    To all the neighbors complaining about this development, please remember that many trees were removed and animal habitats were destroyed and high density development was created in the building of Rosewalk and Swanton Hill. If you wanted to keep this as a hidden space for your kids to play and your dogs to run, you should have tried to do something about it. It is sad that this tree was removed but all the hysteria about this development is unwarranted. You will only benefit from it as your property values rise.

  • Rabbit47

    I heard animals screeching last night. At first, I thought it was an owl but then heard several animals and the sound was a bit strange. I became convinced it was coyotes but now wonder if it was the distressed owls looking for their destroyed home. The City of Decatur likes to project itself as a “green” city but, sadly, there is little evidence to support that claim.

    • Sine qua non

      It’s clear to me that the whole “green” Decatur thing is nothing but a pretty branding word the staff slaps on marketing materials to make the city look like the “progressive” (caring?) place it’s reputed to be and perhaps at one point actually was, but is no more.

      Guess what, folks? You can’t chop down healthy trees, kill and maim wildlife, allow widespread bulldozing of perfectly serviceable homes only to make room for 5 bedroom, 6 bathroom 3,0000 square foot houses that are way bigger than the families in them need and still qualify as “progressive.”

      I used to be involved with city activities and worked a bit with some of the staff on city festivals and programs to benefit Oakhurst. I had cordial relationships with them and respected what they were trying to do. But that was 15-ish years ago. It’s hard to believe these same people are now in some way a part of these irresponsible building projects and policies. However, they earn a living and keep their jobs doing the bidding of whoever calls the shots and these days, the call seems to be for building whatever brings in big tax money. Everything else is superfluous. Sad, sad, sad.

  • decaturite dude

    First let me say I am an enormous tree lover. However, I find it ironic that the members of the Rosewalk community are upset, as many, many more trees were bulldozed to build their homes. I was a resident in Lenox place when that happened. It is a classic “I’ve got mine but you can’t have yours” mentality. The city is ultimately responsible for allowing the practices of developers to continue.

  • Neighbor

    I live in Rosewalk. To address some of the comments:

    1) We were not given an opportunity to pursue purchasing the property, or trying to get it purchased by the city or some other entity for greenspace. It was sold before we even knew it was for sale. I heard it was sold in a day after it went on the market.

    2) We tried every means to work with Thrive to find a compromise to preserve some wildlife habitat (and the 100-year old oak) while still allowing for their development. They were unresponsive and unwilling to change their plans whatsoever.

    3) There were trained, able, and willing volunteers to save and relocate the birds from the trees before their destruction. They were denied access.

    4) As a community, we were not wholesale against any development of this property. Sure, ideally we would have loved it to remain greenspace, but we were accepting of the realities of the situation and understood that some development would happen. We were initially told that it would be around 8 to 10 single family homes (on a site of around 1.5 acres) and that seemed like a lot. The final plan, however, is for 20 3-story townhomes that will tower above our neighborhood. The density of the housing is so much that – not even kidding – fire trucks will not be able to access all the homes and so some will have to have sprinklers instead. Our concerns have not only been about the destruction of the wildlife and habitat that we witnessed this week, but also safety concerns about the huge increase in cars and traffic on our roads, loss of privacy, water and flooding risks, and adding to the overcrowding of our schools (to name a few of the many concerns we had). Bottom line, we wanted a less dense development that would have preserved some of the trees and been less impactful in so many ways. Thrive did not care.

    The destruction we witnessed this week was an absolute abomination. I expected it to be hard to watch, but it was so much worse than I anticipated. As far as I can see, they took out every single tree on site, even the border ones, even a few that were not on their land (knowingly too, it seems. Any fine pales in comparison to the profit they are making). They are taking a clear-cut, maximum profit at any consequence approach to development. This is not smart development. This is not smart growth. This is not an ethical or responsible company. This is not how you build community. I expected better from the City of Decatur than to let this happen, but they did.

    And now it’s done. The trees are dead, the birds and animals are dead, the loss is permanent. For shame.

    • long-time resident

      Meanwhile the City rebuilt all the municipal buildings at a great financial cost to the tax payers and not a nickel for a new park. What happened to all the recommendations obtained at all public meetings and planning sessions? Smoke and mirrors!! Very short sighted indeed – both City staff and Commissioners.

  • Not amused

    The City of Decatur is getting grabby and bloated with new construction and annexations right and left, without regard to the adverse consequences to schools, traffic and the environment. The size of this development is surprising, and so is the failure of the city to protect the trees. The developer’s disregard of the wildlife and reasonable attempts to relocate it is disgusting.

  • King Tommen

    Thrive is planning to build a 10 parcel subdivision on a large wooded lot on Norwood in Kirkwood as well. Guess we can expect similar clear-cutting. Does CoD ever turn down a variance request by these guys?

  • underscorex

    Disappointing and unsurprising on multiple levels:
    1: The developers’ unwillingness to consider the natural environment in the process of building more bland infill townhomes.
    2: The hyperbolic reaction from the local environmentalist community – “ecological abortion”? Really?
    3: The snide reaction from the… well, I don’t know if their motivation is pro-business/expansion or simply “tree-huggers are annoying”, because it isn’t exactly clear in their accusations of NIMBYism…

    DECATUR: A City of Homes, Schools, And Backbiting!

  • Appalled in Decatur

    This sickens me. Something must be done to stop this madness. That tree was an entire ecosystem unto itself as are so many others.
    Can we not find a way to accommodate this explosive development and still be sensitive to the many cherished wild animals living in and sharing our city?

    Richard Merlini

    • Sine qua non

      Richard, the ONLY way to find solutions to this problem as well as all the OTHER problems being created by the essentially wanton destruction of trees, houses and other ecosystems in the City of Decatur, GA is for you and others to get involved. Go to commission and zoning board meetings. Picket. Get on every online forum you can to express your opinions. Organize your neighbors and make it okay to speak out and say to elected and staff city leaders, “enough is enough.” Then, and only then, will this stop. Clearly, if the city had ANY interest in protecting the environment, non-millionaire residents and other vulnerable parts of Decatur, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. As always, it’s government by the people, for the people…and of the people.

  • Marty

    Decatur. It’s
    becoming Buckhead.

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