Forsyth County Revises Tree Protection Ordinance & Soil Erosion Ordinance

Forsyth County Board of Commissioners will host its first public meeting on the revised provisions to its Tree Protection Ordinance and the Soil Erosion ordinance on October 22nd. The board reviewed the proposed revisions during its work session on Tuesday, September 8th. The board will conduct two public hearings before final adoption.

Throughout this year, the county hosted a group of stakeholders to examine discuss the proposed revisions of both ordinances. The Council for Quality Growth participated in the stakeholder discussions.

Listed below is a summary of the proposed modifications to the Tree Protection Ordinance:

  • Allowance of replacement trees to count within zoning [or riparian buffers, if applicable] under the following scenarios:
    The buffer does not have existing tree cover or is sparsely vegetated with trees prior to grading; buffer would remain undisturbed except for replacement tree plantings per county buffer standards.
    Tree replacement is required per zoning condition(s) that require buffer disturbance (e.g. berms, augmented plantings to satisfy adjoining property owners) for tree installation.  
  • Submission of a specimen tree survey at the time of rezoning, which will require an additional pre-submittal conference at this stage of the development process / revert pre-submittal conference at the time of permit submittal back as an optional requirement
  • Ability to grant administrative variances for wider set of performance standards [subsequent UDC change]
  • Submission of a post development tree survey
  • Require a proportion of Significant Tree protection within identified tree groupings based on specimen tree survey [this will allow the county arborist to exert greater influence in a site’s design by providing input on what tree groupings/significant trees are to be preserved]
  • Provide training related to tree protection and replacement standards for the Planning Commission and their citizen stakeholder representatives as well as the Zoning Board of Appeals; dissolve Tree Commission; offer training sessions to developers by request  
  • Remove Section 4.4 C related to imprisonment penalty 

Our organization also supports the proposed revision that any required plantings in the undisturbed buffer should be credited toward recompense. Our staff is encouraging county officials to make the site density factor of 20 tree units per acre remains in place.

There are several proposed revisions which would adversely impact the ability to develop or redevelop in the Forsyth County. The county is proposed to nearly double the tree fund fee from $400 to $750.  Our organization voiced concerns on the proposed 10% tree preservation requirement on the gross site as being too excess. This requirement will devalue the land over the long-term because the ordinance will effectively remove 10% of potentially usable area from a property.

Listed below is the current proposed revisions to the Soil & Erosion ordinance.

For residential developments on property totaling 25 acres or more, no land disturbance permit shall be issued that would allow the disturbance of more than 20 acres in any single contiguous area and no more than two non-contiguous areas may be disturbed at any one time. Whenever two non-contiguous areas in a residential development are disturbed at the same time, no new disturbance may be undertaken in the development until at least one of the two non-contiguous disturbed areas is stabilized, as determined by the Department of Engineering, prior to any additional land disturbance being undertaken. 

 In case of hardship based on topography, soil types, existing vegetation, streams or other physical characteristics of the land, as determined by the Department of Engineering based on evidence presented by the applicant, separate areas of contiguous disturbance may be increased.  In support of any request to exceed the maximum disturbed acreage allowed pursuant to this section, the applicant must provide a phased grading plan for the entire development and a narrative that enumerates all reasons for the assertion that a hardship justifies exceeding the maximum disturbed acreage limit. 

Development plans must conform to topography and soil type so as to create the lowest practical erosion potential and minimize land disturbance.

In Ordinance 73: Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control Ordinance, we respectfully request that the total acreage be increased from 25 to 50 acres for residential developments only. Also, we request a developer to be permitted to clear 2 sections of 40 acres of stabilized land before disturbing any additional land. Our proposed changes keep the total acreage below Georgia’s EPD requirement and maintains the percentage of total land disturbed to land disturbed in your original draft.

To read the entire proposed tree protection ordinance and soil erosion ordinance which doesn’t reflect the county’s recent recommendations, click here. If you have any feedback or concerns on the proposed changes, please email CFQG Senior Policy Analyst, Kimberly Steele at