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Environmental activists call for new Atlanta tree ordinance, city leaders agree

Published: Apr. 13, 2022 at 7:03 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - Environmental activists, even some Atlanta city council members, feel the current tree ordinance has no teeth.

From its fee structure to its lack of incentive for developers to preserve trees, they say new legislation is long overdue.

A new proposal is expected to be introduced in Monday’s city council meeting, confirmed Atlanta City Councilman Julian Bond. Adding, “we want to see new development, but we don’t want to see it happen at the sacrifice of our tree canopy.”

Some know Atlanta as “a city in the forest” or “the city in the trees,” but either way, it’s known for its canopy.

The coverage is rapidly declining says Greg Levine with Trees Atlanta.

The organization plants, protects and educates people on the crucial need for our local greenery-- leaves increase the air quality while roots minimize area flooding.

However, Levine tells CBS46 that recent findings from a national group based out of D.C., American Forest Work, reveal the metro ranks in the top ten in the southeast for tree loss.

“We’re losing it every day because our development is moving faster than our improvement on protecting trees,” he continued.

Meanwhile, Bond says city data shows roughly 30,000 trees have been cut down since the 1990s.

The tree ordinance was put in place more than 20 years ago.

“This is particularly urgent. We need trees to live!” Adding, “All the other issues, public safety, infrastructure, they’re all very important and immediate issues but we need trees to live.”

Under the current rules, to cut down a tree costs $100 plus $30 per diameter inch. City leaders say the fee is too low and it’s not equitable. Bond argues, that larger development projects should face higher fees.

Fees paid then go to a fund to plant trees across the city, but conservationists believe the rate at which it’s happening is not fast enough.

New council discussions expected Monday aim to rid the flat fee for cutting plus incentivize ways to build around them.