Avondale moving forward on tree ordinance
Avondale Estates Mayor Terry Giager said commissioners will work to revise the city’s tree ordinance, an issue that’s likely to invite controversy.
Giager has his own personal reservations about the issue. He believes that the government should respect property rights. But development in Avondale has accelerated and clear-cutting of residential lots to make way for bigger houses is a growing concern. Avondale has no residential tree ordinance, meaning no one has to file a permit before removing a tree.
Giager said a developer recently removed trees behind his home.
“It changed my total view,” he said. “My deck’s in the back and all of a sudden I’ve lost 120 foot trees back there.”
During a work session on Nov. 5, city commissioners announced they’re putting together an ad hoc committee to study ways to regulate tree removal in Avondale Estates. The city will send out an email asking for volunteers to serve on the committee.
Commissioner Randy Beebe said it’s likely that the city will give more authority to its current Tree Board. At the moment, the board only deals with trees on city property.
“Our biggest concern is we’ve got to make sure like anybody else that we balance property right with the tree board,” Beebe said. “We don’t want to go in and stop people from doing things with their trees. I’m hoping we can get an environmental attorney that’s in the neighborhood on the board as well.”
Commissioners are following up on concerns residents brought to them in August about tree removal. 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.
As commissioners dig into the roots of the tree issue, they won’t have to look far to find examples of how other cities have dealt with it.
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.
Avondale Commissioners didn’t have any data on the city’s tree canopy at the work session, but that’s information that’s likely to come out as they pursue a new ordinance. Tackling a complicated and touchy subject like tree removal is an ambitious move for a commission that’s still grappling with controversy over its annexation plans.
“All we need is another controversial issue here in Avondale estates, but you know we’re a Tree City,” Giager said. “That’s kind of our responsibility is to be good stewards.”
Avondale Estates has been named a “Tree City” by the Arbor Day Foundation, and has held that distinction for more than 30 years.
“I want to move on it,” Giager said. “It’s important to the community.”