My insight on Coffin dismissal

To the editor:

I am writing about your coverage of Tom Coffin and his dismissal from his City arborist position (your most recent article was in your Aug. 21 edition “City studying altering tree ordinance”).

I have had an experience with Mr. Coffin that I think illustrates why he was terminated from his position. Last year, I applied for a tree-removal permit to remove two trees that were leaning toward my house. A neutral certified arborist had advised me that both trees were dangerous due to damage to their root zones that occurred in the construction of my house. Mr. Coffin was the arborist responsible for my area and he came by and made an assessment of the situation. He granted a permit to remove one of the trees (the healthier tree in the opinion of the neutral arborist) but denied the other permit.

When I called and spoke to Mr. Coffin to understand why he had come to a different conclusion than my arborist, he simply said that if the tree was going to die, it would have probably died by then (the damage to its root zone had happened four years earlier). His “professional” opinion was little comfort to me.

He said that in order for him to change his mind, I’d need to have my arborist come in with an “air spade” and conduct some kind of visual analysis confirming, to some unspecified standard in Mr. Coffin’s mind, that the tree was unhealthy. My arborist said that the rental of an air spade would be cost-prohibitive and instead drafted a letter for me to forward to Mr. Coffin giving his professional opinion regarding the lack of structural integrity of the tree in question and his recommendation that it be removed. Mr. Coffin never responded.

As you well know, our laws are drafted in a way where most (some would say all) infractions require the reasonable/subjective judgment of the law-enforcement officer to determine if the law is applicable, and if so, if it has been broken. Reasonable discretion is necessarily exercised routinely by all our law-enforcement officers. Mr. Coffin has created a myth in the media (including your paper) regarding his enforcement of the Atlanta Tree Ordinance and would have us believe that his sincere, but also subjective, review of facts surrounding the applicability of the tree ordinance is the only legitimate interpretation of those facts.

My personal experience with Mr. Coffin, and the fact that he sees violations of the ordinance at a rate so in excess of our other arborists, leads me to believe that Tom Coffin lets his personal biases and philosophies cloud his judgment and get in the way of: 1) the intent of the ordinance; 2) common sense; and 3) the professional opinions of others. This is what led to his termination, not, as he would have you believe, because of some anti-tree conspiracy.

Dan Weede

Don’t be fooled about streetcars

To the editor:

How well I remember the rows of poles and heavy clouds of overhead wires which activated electric streetcars on Peachtree until the 1950s.

Then there were the street tracks embedded in the concreter that woiuld catch your tires. In rainy weather they became slippery and made driving hazardous.

Illustrations by new advocates for streetcars show no wires, no poles, nor shorn or chopped trees – it all looks cozy and domestic.

Six-lane Peachtree is a far cry from the illustration on Page 5 of your Aug. 21 issue of the Buckhead Reporter.

Let us not deceive ourselves with cosmetic misrepresentations. The Buckhead sky was a visual mess. Let’s not do that again.

Edward L. Daugherty

Tanyard Creek talks sound familiar

To the editor:

Very nice article (Tanyard Creek talks break down, page 1, Aug. 7-20). Sounded like South Peachtree Creek Trail.

When I lived in DeKalb County — in Buckhead now since March and met someone from your paper at the Buckhead Tasting — I became involved in the PATH / South Peachtree Creek Trail controversy as a concerned citizen with a background in landscape architecture, construction, recreation planning, etc.

I reviewed the plans, visited the site, and raised a lot of questions with county staff, FEMA, ARC, etc. The project had numerous problems (code violations, no permits, environmental damage along the stream buffer, etc.).

I recommend visiting the website.

I’m still involved. If interested, I can give more info (copy info sent to BOC, EPD, Arborguard field study, etc.)

Thanks for the article.

Fred Wooten

Sidewalks a city-wide problem

To the editor:

I just read your article on sidewalks for Sarah Smith (“Sarah Smith safety issue is lack of sidewalks,” page 1, Buckhead Reporter, Aug. 21-Sept. 3) and this seems to be a larger citywide problem. We at Brandon are in the same boat with the Primary center. I replied to your article, but in short, we are very interested in how to get a sidewalk on the major streets around the school. I know there is a budget crisis but if we could do this through fundraising I think it could happen. I have been quoted by a certified contractor who is licensed to work on city projects who says we could do it for $25 a foot. Maybe we could come up with a follow up article that focuses on solution options and keeps the issue fresh in people’s minds?

Thanks for your time, look forward to hearing from you.

Jules Cozine