Tree Ordinance: Development Industry Input Needed

Atlanta - city in a forest

With the densest tree canopy of any major American metropolitan area, our cities are understandably sensitive to the impact of development on trees. The Council has been working closely with the City of Roswell to help ensure that its tree ordinance balances such protection while remaining economically competitive. Of particular concern to local developers are Roswell’s fees associated with tree removal and replacement.

Most jurisdictions in Georgia have adopted tree ordinances for the preservation of trees during the rapid urbanization and development of the state. In Zoning and Land Use Law in Georgia, Seth Weissman, Douglas Dillard, and Jill Skinner address the differences between tree preservation ordinances and zoning ordinances. For instance, they discuss how tree ordinances are not held to the same strict procedure standards as zoning ordinances; although tree ordinances regulate property, they generally apply to a whole jurisdiction, city, or municipality, and are not subject to zones and districts.

Reasons for tree ordinances include site aesthetics, environmental considerations (such as storm water runoff and soil erosion), and urban design purposes. The City of Atlanta Tree Ordinance states in its purpose that the city will “continue to enjoy the benefits provided by its urban forest.” With many of the ordinances adopted, land owners are required to receive permission from local government before removing, relocating or harming a tree in any way. This becomes important especially with site development and during construction. Tree replacement is generally required when preservation is not possible.

Recently, Roswell’s tree ordinance has met some scrutiny from local developers as it has been making developing and redeveloping a challenge in relation to the tree ordinance. The Council has been working to prove that an amendment of the ordinance would better promote economic growth and development, and that the current ordinance puts Roswell at a competitive disadvantage for development. We are partnering with Roswell, Inc., the business arm of the City of Roswell. They are fully supportive of changing Roswell’s current tree ordinance if we can prove that it is placing Roswell at a competitive disadvantage compared to other surrounding municipalities.

If anyone has any first-hand experience with Roswell’s tree ordinance, it would greatly help us to fully understand the impacts on development. Please contact James Touchton ( with any input.

To view Roswell’s tree ordinance, click HERE.

To view comparisons of tree ordinances across the Metro Area, click HERE.

To view summaries of tree ordinance in the Metro Area, click HERE.