The fate of two large oak trees is a concern in a plan to expand the parking lot for an office building in the Buckhead Forest neighborhood.

On Sept. 7, the local SPI-9 Design Review Committee reviewed an application from the owners of 3166 Mathieson Drive to enlarge the lot behind the building. That would involve cutting down two tall oak trees, one 45 inches in circumference and the other 43 inches, as well as some smaller trees, according to DRC meeting minutes.

The 3166 Mathieson Drive office building with the trees behind it. (Photo John Ruch)

“A 45-inch oak tree is a treasure,” said DRC member Sally Silver, adding that the city arborist is also concerned.
No one showed up to represent the applicant at the DRC meeting, Silver said, and the city of Atlanta says it has not yet received an updated application. Dale Baumann, who is listed as the agent for property owner Forum Investment Properties LLC, did not return a phone call.

The oak trees tower over the stone-faced office building to roughly twice its two-story height.

According to city spokesperson Jewanna Gaither, the owners originally applied for a parking lot expansion in 2014 and the city arborist examined the largest tree at that time. That application was “terminated” in February 2016, she said.

Under the latest application reviewed by the SPI-9 DRC, the owners want to increase the parking from 10 to 17 spaces. By the DRC’s original calculation, that exceeds the amount allowed under zoning and would require removing the oaks as well as a 14-inch cherry tree, a 7-inch dogwood tree and 14-inch pine trees. The committee recommended denial.

However, the applicant later provided information showing that the calculation of the building’s square-footage—the basis for figuring out the amount of parking spaces allowed—was too low and that the owners were entitled to up to 21 parking spaces.

The two large oak trees at the rear of the parking lot at 3166 Mathieson Drive. (Photo John Ruch)

Based on that new information, the DRC revised its recommendation. According to its minutes, the DRC recommended “the applicant work with the planning department to revise the proposed parking plan in a manner that mitigates impacts to the two large existing oak trees making every effort to preserve them.”

Meanwhile, Gaither said, the owners filed a new permit application in August, but the city did not accept the plans because they were incomplete. The city is awaiting any updated filing.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.

One reply on “Fate of large trees a concern in Buckhead Forest parking lot plan”

  1. Oak trees can live for up to three hundred years. White oaks, for example, are great for attracting insects that provide food for birds. Trees in general can lower ground temperatures by as much as 15-20 degrees, convert large amounts of carbon into oxygen and water, and store over a thousand pounds of water per year in its roots instead of running down a flood plain. This metro area isn’t the largest urban forest in the United States for nothing. And we need to keep it that way.

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