By John Schaffner
A leader of an Atlanta tree support organization says city officials appear to have taken no action on the group’s complaints over how city arborists enforce tree protection laws.
Shel Schlegman, chair of The Tree Next Door, said he has seen no progress since he met Oct. 6 with top city officials.
Schlegman said complaints by the tree support group were supposed to be investigated by Planning Commissioner James Shelby after representatives of the group met with Shelby and Atlanta’s Chief Operating Officer, Peter Amman.
Schlegman and Dr. Jeri Breiner, founder of TTND, are urging Buckhead residents to attend the Dec. 7 meeting of Neighborhood Planning Unit A, at 7 p.m. at the Atlanta Speech School on Northside Parkway, where a representative of the city’s Arborist Division is scheduled to speak.
After the local tree organization e-mailed Aman in October arguing it had received questionable reports by one particular arborist, Aman apparently responded that he had turned the complaints over to the city’s Law Department for investigation.
Phone calls to Aman’s office were referred to the mayor’s office of communications, where no one answered any of the four phones of the top communications department representatives or the phone messages left.
“When will the city act to end this sham uncovered by (The Tree Next Door) before it becomes a major embarrassment to the city?” Schlegman wrote in his e-mail.
“The Tree Next Door … is under way with a true investigation, similar to the recent audit which revealed that records in the Office of Code Compliance had vanished and inspectors logged in jobs before they even visited the site. This is exactly what is happening in the Arborist Division and yet there’s not even a hint that any kind of investigation has begun or disciplinary action has occurred with the exception of a slap-on-the-wrist.”
The local group works to protect the city’s tree canopy and to see that the city’s Tree Protection Ordinance is enforced.
“It is time the mayor is made aware of the issue and deals with the truth that a fraud is being permitted to happen on his watch,” Schlegman said.
Schlegman said there also has been little or no progress on other matters discussed at the Oct. 6 meeting. He seeks:
•A clarification of the city’s Tree Protection Ordinance in layman’s terms. Schlegman described the ordinance as very difficult to understand and suggested that a user manual for home owners be written. The idea was enthusiastically received and Commissioner Shelby volunteered to make sure that happened.
•Review of the city’s forestry master plan. •Consider licensing tree cutters.