Think that one tree in your back yard may be dead? Concerned about an ailing tree in your front yard or sidewalk planting strip? Frustrated that there’s a healthy but humongous tree growing three feet from the foundation of your house?
STOP! Before you hire someone to cut any tree down, read the following.
A great many of the trees in the City of Atlanta, including some of the trees you yourself own, are protected by our wonderful Tree Ordinance, which is still one of the most progressive, farsighted in the entire country, notwithstanding revisions that have weakened (on one view) or moderated (on another) some of the original provisions.
Here are the very basics. Read carefully!
- A tree in your sidewalk planting strip, where the city has a public right-of-way, falls under the purview of the Department of Parks & Recreation, while a tree in your yard may be the responsibility of the Bureau of Buildings.
- All trees growing along the street in the public right-of-way between the sidewalk and the curb, no matter the size, no matter whether you planted it yourself, are protected. Only those trees in your yard that are six (6) inches in diameter at breast height (= DBH, or 4.5 feet above the ground) are protected.
- The city employs certified arborists both in Parks and in Buildings whose job is to inspect trees that may be diseased or injured and require removal.
- For a public tree, call customer service in Parks and answer the simple questions that they’ll ask you. The city takes care of the rest: inspection, removal if necessary, stump grinding.* You bear no expense.
- For a tree in your yard, you may call the Arborist Division in Buildings. The city also offers an online application process. But the simplest approach may be to hire a reputable tree service (ask whether their arborist is ISA-certified!), which will handle the permitting process for you. Note that there is no fee for the permit itself. Naturally, you will bear the cost of any work done by the business you hire to remove or treat the tree.
- Caveat: even a healthy tree growing within five (5) feet of your foundation may be removed with a permit. That is, you must still secure the permit for a tree that is six (6) inches DBH.
- If you do not secure the necessary permit before work begins on your tree(s), you could be subject to a stiff fine and significant hassle.
* The city has limited resources devoted to tree removal and stump grinding. The wait may be lengthy. If you get frustrated, contact us. We’ll do what we can to help.