Brookhaven could have a new tree ordinance on July 22 if the mayor and city council approve recommended changes to the current code.

“We adopted the ordinance [from DeKalb] as temporary with the intention of going back through it,” said Mayor J. Max Davis at a July 15 work session. He said that the city likewise previously made changes to its development and police codes that it had adopted from the county.

Arborist Kay Evanovich, land developer with the city, and arborist Teresa Eldredge, a landscape architect and president of TJ Schell, presented the modified tree plan to the council during the work session.

Councilwoman Rebecca Chase Williams said that the purpose of the changes is to make the existing ordinance more clear.

“It’s not a terrible ordinance but it’s a little confusing and we wanted to make sure it’s absolutely clear,” she said. “We want to preserve the tree canopy while respecting property owners’ rights.” She said that with Brookhaven’s development boom, it’s a balancing act between the tree canopy and smart development.

Eldredge said that while cities often adopt their tree ordinances from their counties, they need to “look at it from the perspective of a small city.”

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

Under the new ordinance, homeowners could remove five 10-inch (diameter) or greater trees, other than speciman trees, from an owner-occupied, single-family property in a calendar year. 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 50 inches (diameter) of trees per acre when a removal fee is applied for. The old ordinance had no requirement for replanting trees.

On properties where land disturbance permits have been applied for, developers must maintain 100 inches of trees per acre outside of building setbacks. The old ordinance stipulated the lesser of 120 inches per acre or 25 percent of existing tree per acre must be maintained.

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.

Mayor Davis requested that language be added to the ordinance pertaining to the city’s desire to preserve trees while protecting the rights of property owners.

Evanovich said that ultimately the new ordinance will save time and reduce conflict.

Ann Marie Quill

Ann Marie Quill is Associate Editor at Reporter Newspapers.