The Brookhaven City Council voted July 22 to defer changes to its tree ordinance to give staff members a chance to tweak it a bit before it’s approved. But, even after approval, the city’s tree regulations will remain a work in progress, city officials said.

Still, some residents say the proposed new rules are too vague and too lenient on developers.

“I think we need to pass something immediately, so that nothing else slides through under the old ordinance, and then get a better one by September,” resident Ruth Ann Little said.

And that’s just what the council did. Councilman Joe Gebbia suggested deferring the ordinance until July 29 at 6:30 p.m., following a presentation of the city’s proposed comprehensive, Buford Highway and parks plans, which starts at 3 p.m.

The proposed revised tree ordinance will be left on the city website (www.brookhavenga.gov) for public review, city officials said. Another public hearing will be held within 30 days so city officials can continue to modify the ordinance and gather comments from residents.

“I think any ordinance can use reworking,” said Kay Evanovich, a city arborist, adding that there’s “room for improvement.”

The council’s vote to wait a week followed a July 15 work session in which the new regulations were presented with the intent of improving the ordinance the city adopted from DeKalb County.

“We adopted the ordinance [from DeKalb] as temporary, with the intention of going back through it,” said Mayor J. Max Davis at the work session.

Davis said that the city, likewise, previously made changes to its development and police codes that it had adopted from the county.

Evanovich said she agreed with the idea of approving the new ordinance soon while continuing to work on another draft. She said she was concerned that since the draft has been made public, some homeowners might go ahead and cut down trees before the new ordinance passes.

“If we go ahead and pass this and get these measures in that do help our canopy and then turn around and do another draft . . . I think that might be a more beneficial thing to do at this point,” she said.

Evanovich, along with arborist Teresa Eldredge, a landscape architect and president of TJ Schell,  presented the modified tree plan to the council during the July 15 work session.

Some changes to the ordinance include encouraging appropriate tree diversity, and maintaining the health of city trees through proper pruning and mulching.

The tree ordinance would take effect when someone wants to remove trees, applies for a land development or building permit, or wants to rebuild more than half a parking lot.

It does not apply for tree plantings on public lands, for landscaping projects on private property when no trees are removed, and for remodeling or additions with no tree or land disturbance.

Under the new ordinance, homeowners may remove five trees in a calendar year with a diameter of 10 inches or more, other than specimen trees. The old ordinance did not specify the size of the trees, nor did it require a permit, as it would under the new code.

Also, the new ordinance would require that residential properties maintain a specified amount of tree coverage per acre when a removal permit is applied for. The old ordinance had no requirement for maintaining or replanting trees.

On properties where land disturbance permits have been applied for, under the new ordinance, developers must maintain a specified amount of tree coverage per acre outside of building setbacks.

The new ordinance also creates a tree fund, which means property owners could pay as an alternate form of compliance with the ordinance. The collected funds could be used for developing a tree survey, buying and planting trees on public property, tree education, city tree maintenance and promoting a healthy tree population.

 

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