Decatur's Oakhurst neighborhood.
DECATUR, GA -- When Elizabeth Layburn gazes up from the lawn of her stepson's hundred year old home in Decatur -- she sees the graceful tree canopy that tree lovers across metro Atlanta want to preserve.
But she also sees individual trees that are less idyllic. "There's two huge oaks in the front. And this one here," Layburn said, gesturing upward, "is threatening to fall on the house."
Decatur has few restrictions now on homeowners who want to remove trees. The new ordinance, if approved, would require them to:
- Purchase a tree removal permit;
- Require them to hire an arborist to inspect the tree;
- Require a city arborist to visit the site;
- And require replacement of any tree removed or a contribution to a tree bank.
"What we're trying to do with this new ordinance is respond to community concerns by providing increased tree protection," said city planner Amanda Thompson. Thompson said the new ordinance would not give the city veto power over a property owner's desire to remove a tree, once the owner has completed the requirements.
But some residents say it's an overreaction, fueled by what Frank Wynne calls "tree party politics."
"Additional layers of bureaucracy won't help me manage my property," said Wynne, a Decatur resident and real estate agent. "And I think we have an awfully impressive tree canopy as we speak."
Officials at Decatur City Hall conducted an online, unscientific poll about the tree ordinance. And those voting overwhelmingly voted against it.