While city staff members work on plans to tighten Sandy Springs’ tree ordinance, residents say would like to see greater changes.

“The tree protection amendments are fairly simple, in that they’re focused on clarifying the way it’s written [and focus] on substantive changes to the ordinance that improve and enhance tree conservation and replacement, focusing on tree canopy,” said Community Development Director Angela Parker at a public meeting March 3.

Changes include protecting smaller trees, counting only trees 18 inches in diameter or more toward canopy requirements, requiring replanting and payment for tree removal below minimum canopy requirement, and requiring an arborist’s approval before removing a landmark tree.

The changes are scheduled to go before City Council on April 7.

Bill Cleveland, a Sandy Springs resident and president of the Sandy Springs Environmental Project, told council members that he appreciated and supported the proposed amendments, but was concerned there were too many incentives and not enough requirements.

“It’s hard to have confidence that you’re really achieving your goal here,” he said.

Former City Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny said the suggested amendments go a long way, but she saw little protection for existing trees in residential redevelopment areas.

“You need to stop clear cutting,” she said. “Stop the ability of a developer doing business in our neighborhood to clear cut,” she said.

Patty Berkovitz of the Watershed Alliance of Sandy Springs said that removing trees means bigger costs for the city. She said that trees help secure the soil, which helps prevent storm water runoff. Berkovitz also said that silt from floodwater contributed to the failure of the Lake Forrest Dam, which “will cost the city millions of dollars.”

“My yard floods where it didn’t flood before,” resident Rhonda Smith said, adding that the penalties developers have to pay when they remove trees “cost them nothing compared to the money that they make.”

Twelve-year-old resident Kate Kearney also objected to removing all the trees as a part of construction.

“I don’t think it’s a benefit to anybody for the amount of trees that are being clear cut,” she said. “There’s a neighborhood that’s being built in my area and they’re calling it Sandy Springs Preserve. They clear cut the entire lot. I thought that was just kind of funny, that they can take out so many trees and just brush it out like it wasn’t a big deal.”

Ann Marie Quill

Ann Marie Quill is Associate Editor at Reporter Newspapers.