Avondale residents want a stronger tree ordinance
Avondale Estates may soon follow Decatur’s lead by pursuing a stronger tree ordinance.
During the Aug. 20 city work session, resident Martha McDermott told commissioners that there’d been an alarming amount of clear-cutting in the city. She referred specifically to a lot on Lakeshore Drive. McDermott wasn’t the only person who noticed that the lot was minus a few trees. A reader sent in this photo and had similar concerns.
“It’s upsetting,” McDermott said. “I’d like to ask the board of mayor and commissioners and take a look at the current tree ordinance, to see if there is a way to replace some very good trees that they take down. I don’t know what the options are.”
Currently, there aren’t many options for residential properties, City Manager Clai Brown said.
“There’s not a residential tree ordinance,” Brown said. “There is a commercial tree ordinance.”
He said there was an attempt to rewrite the ordinance in 2007, but it failed.
Other commissioners said they were concerned about the clear cutting as well, even if they are – on the whole – in favor of personal property rights.
“I saw the lot on Lakeshore,” Commissioner John Quinn said. “It certainly is a concern to me.”
Commissioner Terry Giager noted that Avondale Estates has been named a “Tree City” by the Arbor Day Foundation, and has held that distinction for more than 30 years.
“I am a property owner’s rights person,” Giager said. “I believe if a person owns a property they have rights, and I also agree that hardwood trees need to be kept, especially in our city. I mean, we’re a ‘Tree City.’ This is one of those areas where I’m kind of in a conundrum to figure out where we go and what is enforceable or is not enforceable.”
It wasn’t exactly easy for Decatur, either. In October of last year, the Decatur City Commission enacted a 90-day tree removal moratorium to give the city time to adopt the new ordinance. The moratorium ended in January, but the new ordinance wasn’t adopted until May of this year. Commissioners tried to pass a new ordinance before the moratorium ended, but the first draft didn’t go over well with Decatur residents. Ultimately, Decatur commissioners adopted an ordinance that gave residents some wiggle room to remove trees if they deemed it necessary. The new ordinance also gave the city additional ways to measure Decatur’s canopy.
Many of the Decatur residents’ concerns were the same ones Avondale commissioners were weighing during the Aug. 20 meeting.
And it’s not just Decatur and Avondale. Brookhaven recently began taking another look at its tree ordinance. The reasons in all three cases are basically the same: the economy has improved, development has revved up and so have the chainsaws.
Avondale City Commissioner Lindsay Forlines said the commission needs to tread carefully on the issue.
“I like the trees as much as anybody,” she said. “Maybe we can see what other cities have done.”
Commissioners didn’t announce any formal next steps, however.
In other business, city commissioners discussed responses to a Request for Proposal for designing a parking lot in a space the city will be leasing from MARTA. The space is less than one acre and located across from Savage Pizza, and is currently used for storage and staging by the Transit Authority.
According to the RFP, the lot should provide about 150 parking spaces for the city’s downtown.
City staff is recommending the city award the contract to Turner Spangler Walsh and Associates for a total of $25,600.
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