Tree Ordinance

Chapter 122 VEGETATION [1]



  — (1) —

Cross reference— Buildings and building regulations, ch. 22; flowers, trees and shrubs in cemeteries, § 30-6; environment, ch. 50; manufactured homes and trailers, ch. 70; insect and rodent control in weeds, brush and grass in mobile home parks, § 70-180; parks and recreation, ch. 78; planning, ch. 86; streets, sidewalks and other public places, ch. 98; subdivisions, ch. 102; required improvements to street trees in subdivisions, § 102-108; zoning, app. A. (Back)

State Law reference— Tenants not permitted to cut or destroy growing trees, O.C.G.A. § 44-7-11. (Back)



Secs. 122-1—122-25. Reserved.


Secs. 122-1—122-25. Reserved.









Sec. 122-26. Definitions.

Sec. 122-27. Purpose.

Sec. 122-28. Administration.

Sec. 122-29. Enforcement and penalties.

Sec. 122-30. Appeals.

Sec. 122-31. Conflict with other laws.

Sec. 122-32. License and insurance of arborist or tree surgeon.

Sec. 122-33. Disease, insects, hazard or nuisance.

Sec. 122-34. Emergencies.

Sec. 122-35. Attaching articles to shade trees.

Secs. 122-36—122-60. Reserved.


Sec. 122-26. Definitions.

The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this article, shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:

Buffer zone means an open or landscaped area of appropriate design providing a visual and/or noise separation between incompatible land uses.

Caliper means diameter measurement of the trunk taken six inches above ground level for trees up to and including four-inch caliper size. Measurement shall be taken 12 inches above the ground level for larger trees.

City means the mayor and council, all city departments, the tree board, or their designated agent.

Contractor means one who contracts or is a party to a contract.

DBH (diameter at breast height) means the diameter of a tree 4½ feet above the average ground level.

Drip line means the imaginary vertical lines that extend to the ground and mark the outermost edges of the tree crown.

Homeowner means a tenant or owner of an existing single-family or duplex residence.

Impervious cover means buildings and paved areas.

Landmark tree means a tree which has special significance because one or more of the following criteria may apply: rare species, old age, size, location, association with a historical event or person, scenic enhancement, or unique characteristics.

Large tree means any tree having a height of 30 feet or more at maturity.

Paved area means any ground surface covered with concrete, asphalt, stone, gravel, brick, or other paving material.

Person means a public or private individual, corporation, company, firm, association, trust, estate, commission, board, public or private institution, utility, or other legal entity.

Planting strip and planting area mean a ground surface free of paved material which is reserved for landscaping purposes.

Private land means all lands and buildings not owned by governments.

Private tree means a tree on nonpublic land.

Professional means a person who specializes in either planting, care and treatment or maintenance of trees; such professional may have knowledge or training in forestry, horticulture, entomology, dendrology, landscape architecture, pathology, or other related fields.

Public land means all lands, rights-of-way, and buildings that are owned by governments.

Public tree means a tree on any public lands.

Small tree means any tree having a height of less than 30 feet at maturity.

Topping means any pruning practice that results in cutting back limbs, within the tree’s crown, to stubs larger than three inches in diameter, so as to remove the normal canopy and disfigure the tree.

Tree means a woody perennial plant having a single (usually elongate) main stem, including but not limited to a shrub or vine of arborescent form.

Tree protection zone means a distance equal to a designated zoning district setback.

(Code 1983, § 25.5-3)

Cross reference— Definitions generally, § 1-2.

Sec. 122-27. Purpose.

The purpose of this article is to provide full power and authority over all trees, plants, and shrubs located within the city street rights-of-way, parks and other public places and to trees, plants, and shrubs located on private property as described in this article. Such power and authority shall promote and protect the public health, safety, and general welfare and, further, shall accentuate the scenic, cultural, historical, and aesthetic attributes of the city by establishing procedures and practices for fulfilling these purposes.

(Code 1983, § 25.5-2)

Sec. 122-28. Administration.

This article shall be administered by the city arborist, with general oversight provided by the tree board. Duties shall include issuing permits and inspecting public lands and private lands, when authorized, in fulfillment of the requirements of this article.

(Code 1983, § 25.5-41; Ord. No. 09-21, § 1, 8-3-2009)

Cross reference— Administration, ch. 2.

Sec. 122-29. Enforcement and penalties.

(a)    Enforcement officer. The city arborist shall be the enforcement officer of this article and shall take the necessary actions to cause enforcement of this article.

(b)    Fines. Any person who violates any section of this article or who fails to comply with any notice issued pursuant to this article, upon being found guilty of such violation, shall be subject to a fine not to exceed $500.00 for each separate offense.

(c)    Repair or replacement of trees. If, as the result of the violation of any section of this article, the injury, mutilation, or death of a public tree is caused, the cost of the repair or replacement of such tree shall be borne by the party in violation. Replacement value of the tree shall be determined in accordance with the latest revision of A Guide to the Professional Evaluation of Landscaped Trees, Specimen Shrubs, and Evergreens, as published by the International Society of Arboriculture.

(d)    Nuisances. If a nuisance is not abated by the date specified in any notice from the building inspector, the city arborist is authorized to cause the abatement of the nuisance. The reasonable cost of such abatement shall be filed as a lien against the property on which the nuisance was located. In addition, the owner of the property on which the nuisance was located shall be subject to prosecution in accordance with subsections (b) and (c) of this section.

(Code 1983, § 25.5-42; Ord. No. 09-21, § 2, 8-3-2009)

Sec. 122-30. Appeals.

The zoning board of appeals, established and authorized by the city zoning ordinance, shall be empowered to take appeals by any person or the city affected by any decision of the city arborist regarding this article. Such appeal shall be taken within 15 days, as provided by the rules of the zoning board of appeals, by filing with the city arborist a written notice of appeal specifying the grounds thereof. All procedural requirements specified by article XIV of the zoning ordinance in appendix A shall apply.

(Code 1983, § 25.5-43; Ord. No. 09-21, § 3, 8-3-2009)

Sec. 122-31. Conflict with other laws.

Whenever the provisions of any other statute require more restrictive standards than are required by this article, the provisions of such statute shall govern.

(Code 1983, § 25.5-44)

Sec. 122-32. License and insurance of arborist or tree surgeon.

(a)    It shall be unlawful for any person to engage in the business of cutting, trimming, pruning, removing, spraying, or otherwise treating trees within the city without a business license issued under article II of chapter 26 for a classification of “arborist or tree surgeon.”

(b)    Any arborist or tree surgeon shall first file evidence with the office of the city clerk of possession of general or public liability insurance in the minimum amounts of $300,000.00, single limit, for bodily injury or death and $100,000.00 property damage resulting from the pursuit of such endeavors described in this section and requiring notification to the city upon cancellation of such insurance coverage.

(Code 1983, § 25.5-7)

Sec. 122-33. Disease, insects, hazard or nuisance.

(a)    The city shall have the power to enter upon any public or private lands in the city and to spray or otherwise treat or cause to be sprayed or otherwise treated any tree infected or infested by any parasite, insect or pest when it shall be necessary in the city’s opinion to do so to prevent the breeding or scattering of any parasite, insect, or pest and to prevent danger therefrom to persons or property or to trees planted on the public lands or other private lands.

(b)    Whenever, in the opinion of the city, trimming or treatment or removal of any such tree located on the public or private lands shall be deemed wise, the city shall have the power to trim, treat or remove any such tree or shrub or cause or order such to be done.

(c)    Prior to exercising the authority conferred by this section, the city arborist shall give the owner or occupant an opportunity to correct the condition by ordering that corrective action be taken. The order shall be in writing to the owner or occupant of the property in question and shall be acted upon within ten days. If the owner or occupant has not corrected the condition or undertaken action that would lead to a timely correction of the condition, the city is authorized to enter upon the property to perform the work necessary to correct the condition and to bill the owner or occupant for the actual costs incurred.

(Code 1983, § 25.5-8; Ord. No. 09-21, § 4, 8-3-2009)

Cross reference— Nuisances, § 50-176 et seq.

Sec. 122-34. Emergencies.

In an emergency such as a windstorm, ice storm, fire, or other disaster, the requirements of this article may be waived by the city during the emergency period so that they would in no way hamper private or public work to restore order in the city. This shall not be interpreted to be a license to circumvent the intent of this article.

(Code 1983, § 25.5-9)

Sec. 122-35. Attaching articles to shade trees.

It shall be unlawful for any person to tack or nail any paper, card, board, tin or any other thing upon shade trees within the city.

(Code 1983, § 15-10)

Secs. 122-36—122-60. Reserved.



Sec. 122-61. Created; appointment; terms; proceedings.

Sec. 122-62. Powers and duties.

Sec. 122-63. Landmark trees.

Secs. 122-64—122-90. Reserved.


Sec. 122-61. Created; appointment; terms; proceedings.

(a)    There is created and established a tree board for the city which shall consist of nine members, citizens and residents of the city, who shall be appointed by the mayor and council and shall serve without compensation.

(b)    Appointees to the tree board shall have staggered terms of four years. Vacancies caused by death, resignation, or otherwise shall be filled for the unexpired term by appointment of the mayor and council.

(c)    The board shall choose its own officers, make its own rules and regulations, establish meeting dates, and keep minutes of its proceedings. A majority of the total members shall be a quorum for the transaction of business.

(Code 1983, § 25.5-4; Ord. of 3-3-1997, § 1.4)

Sec. 122-62. Powers and duties.

The tree board or its authorized agent will have the power and duty to:

(1)    Study and make recommendations to the mayor and council regarding the planting, maintenance, and protection of trees on public property or, when requested by the mayor and council, shall consider, investigate, make findings, report, and recommend upon any special matter or question coming within the scope of its work.

(2)    Prepare or update, annually, a written citywide tree master plan that guides the care, preservation, pruning, planting, replanting, removal, or disposition of trees on public lands. Such plan shall:

a.    Consider existing and future utility locations and environmental factors in relation to existing and future tree species on public lands or on private lands, as provided in this article or this Code.

b.    Provide a status report of landmark trees within the city.

c.    Be recommended to the mayor and council and upon their acceptance and approval be implemented as the tree master plan.

(3)    Recommend to the city the genus and species of trees to be planted on public lands; upon request, advise owners of private land about the trees to be planted on private land; and, further, where authorized by this article or this Code, review and comment on the landscaping and buffering plans of private developments.

(4)    Assist the parks and recreation department in a program to protect and maintain existing trees and green areas and all city-owned and recreational lands and properties and provide review and comments on the proposed landscaping plans of all recreational lands and properties within the city.

(5)    Accept all contributions, donations, fees, exactions, or other funds for the planting, care and protection of trees throughout the city and recommend expenditure of such monies to the mayor and council.

(6)    Appoint a professional, as defined, to act in the name and on behalf of the city carrying out certain provisions and exercising certain powers under this article.

(7)    Have the responsibility and power to promulgate rules, regulations, and specifications concerning the trimming, spraying, removal, planting, pruning, and protection of trees and other plants and authorize enforcement of such rules, regulations, and specifications.

(Code 1983, § 25.5-5)

Sec. 122-63. Landmark trees.

The tree board or its agent shall select, map, and identify by genus, species, and common name all trees that qualify to be named landmark trees of the city. Such trees may be named or otherwise officially designated by the tree board. Landmark trees can be designated on both public and private lands.

(Code 1983, § 25.5-6)

Secs. 122-64—122-90. Reserved.


— (2) —

Cross reference— Boards, commissions and authorities, § 2-236 et seq. (Back)




Sec. 122-91. Permit.

Sec. 122-92. Topping.

Sec. 122-93. Public/private utilities.

Sec. 122-94. Road projects.

Sec. 122-95. Injuring trees.

Sec. 122-96. Trimming trees adjacent to public lands.

Secs. 122-97—122-125. Reserved.


Sec. 122-91. Permit.

No person shall plant; remove; destroy; cut; prune, including the root system; poison; or otherwise treat any tree having its trunk in or upon any public lands or contract with another person to perform such act without first obtaining a written permit from the city arborist and without complying strictly with the provisions of the permit and this article.

(Code 1983, § 25.5-21; Ord. No. 09-21, § 5, 8-3-2009)

Sec. 122-92. Topping.

It shall be unlawful as a normal or routine practice for any person: city, county, or state employees; or public/private utility employees to top any tree on public lands. Trees severely damaged by storms or other causes or certain trees under utility wires or other obstructions may be exempted from this section when other pruning practices are impractical.

(Code 1983, § 25.5-22)

Sec. 122-93. Public/private utilities.

All public/private utilities shall acknowledge the city’s desire to protect and enhance the viability of trees and shall comply with the tree board’s separate specifications for pruning or removal of trees on or adjacent to public lands. A utility shall not be required to obtain a permit for routine operations affecting trees, as long as such work is done in strict accordance with the approved specifications. Requests for the removal of trees or pruning in excess of specifications shall be handled on an individual permit basis. Failure to comply with the approved specifications is a violation of this section.

(Code 1983, § 25.5-23)

Cross reference— Utilities, ch. 118.

Sec. 122-94. Road projects.

Individual permits will not be required for city, county, or state department of transportation road projects as long as tree preservation and protection requirements are included in the project plans.

(Code 1983, § 25.5-24)

Sec. 122-95. Injuring trees.

(a)    It shall be unlawful for any person, except with a written permit, to place or maintain upon public lands any stone, cement or other impervious matter or substance in such a manner as may obstruct the free access of air and water to the roots of any tree within such public lands. This subsection shall not apply to the paving, repairing or altering of the public streets, sidewalks, and other public places by the city.

(b)    No person shall perform or contract with another to perform construction work, including the operation or storage of equipment or materials, within the drip line of any public tree without first obtaining a permit from the city arborist and complying with requirements, which may include requirements that protective enclosures be erected at designated locations.

(c)    It shall be unlawful for any person to attach to any public tree or to the guard or stake intended for the protection of such tree a rope, wire, chain, sign, or other device whatsoever, except for the purpose of protecting it or the public.

(d)    Damages to city trees in violation of this section shall be computed according to subsection 122-29(c).

(Code 1983, § 25.5-25; Ord. No. 09-21, § 6, 8-3-2009)

Sec. 122-96. Trimming trees adjacent to public lands.

(a)    Trees, vines, bushes, shrubbery or flowers standing in or upon any lot or land adjacent to any public lands and having branches, limbs, trunks, or other parts projecting into the public street or place shall be kept trimmed by the owner or occupant of the property on which such vines, trees, bushes, shrubbery or flowers are growing, so as not to interfere with the free and safe passage along the public way by pedestrians and vehicular traffic.

(b)    If the owner or occupant of such property does not keep this growth from projecting into or on public land, the city shall have the authority to order its removal. The order shall be in writing to the owner or occupant responsible for such growth and shall be acted upon within ten days from the time of the receipt of the order. If, after ten days, the owner or occupant has not responded or acted to remove the projecting growth from such vines, trees, bushes, shrubbery or flowers, the city shall have the authority to enter upon the property to perform this work.

(Code 1983, § 25.5-26)

Secs. 122-97—122-125. Reserved.



Sec. 122-126. Applicability; permit review.

Sec. 122-127. Responsibility of utility.

Sec. 122-128. Tree planting.

Sec. 122-129. Protection of existing trees required.

Sec. 122-130. Inspection of sites.

Sec. 122-131. Emergencies.

Sec. 122-132. Notice of violation.


Sec. 122-126. Applicability; permit review.

(a)    This division shall apply to all developers and/or owners of real property involved with the erection, repair, alteration or removal of any building or structure, as well as the grading in anticipation of such development. The following are exclusions from this division; these exclusions apply to only this division and not to other sections of this article or other parts of this Code, such as zoning regulations on screening:

(1)    The homeowner of a single-family or duplex residence.

(2)    Property to be developed for single-family or duplex residential uses.

(3)    Property which as altered requires no addition of square footage or exterior renovation to an existing structure on that property.

(b)    The city arborist shall have the authority to review all requests for permits for any planting, removal and/or trimming or cutting of trees in any public right-of-way.

(Code 1983, § 25.5-31)

Sec. 122-127. Responsibility of utility.

Public and private utilities which install overhead and underground utilities, including CATV installations, and water and sewer by or at the direction of all utility departments shall be required to accomplish all work on the property subject to this division in accordance with the company’s written pruning and trenching specifications or as mutually agreeable to the property owner and the utility. Written specifications shall have been first approved by the city and reviewed by the tree board. Specifications shall be reviewed at a minimum of every two years by the board for needed improvements and as required by modifications in this division.

(Code 1983, § 25.5-32)

Sec. 122-128. Tree planting.

(a)    Perimeter planting requirements. A perimeter planting strip, exclusive of access driveways, with a minimum width of five feet and abutting the public right-of-way shall be required. If large maturing trees are used, the planting strip shall include two trees with a minimum of two inches of caliper and eight feet in height in the first 40 feet and one tree per 40 feet thereafter or fraction thereof. If small maturing trees are used, the same conditions apply, but the increment drops to 30 feet.

When a building permit is requested for renovation of a previously developed site and where the required perimeter strip does not exist, trees are still required. However, a pavement cutout of a minimum of 80 square feet and with a minimum dimension of five feet may be substituted. This substitution, if so agreed upon by all parties, must be constructed within the designated front setback area for the particular property as set forth in the city zoning ordinance.

When a railroad or utility right-of-way separates the perimeter from a city right-of-way, the planting strip requirement and the tree planting requirements must still be met.

(b)    Internal planting requirements. Whenever the impervious cover exceeds 10,000 square feet, an area equal to five percent of the total impervious surface must be provided for landscape purposes and tree planting. Internal tree planting is required at the rate of one tree per 10,000 square feet of impervious cover.

Trees must be planted within the paved area so that no parking space is more than 90 feet from a tree. Minimum unpaved landscape area per tree shall be 160 square feet with a minimum dimension of eight feet.

When a building permit is requested for the renovation of a site previously developed, internal tree planting is still required, and the minimum planting area shall be 160 square feet per tree. Five percent of the total impervious cover must be open for landscape purposes.

(c)    Tree specifications. The trees to be planted must be from an approved list supplied by the city arborist. Minimum tree caliper measured six inches above the ground on all trees shall be two inches, and the minimum height shall be eight feet.

(d)    Planting area requirements. All planting areas shall be bordered by a six-inch stand-up concrete curb or another means of acceptable protection pursuant to current public works department construction specifications or permit.

(e)    Large maturing shade trees. Fifty percent of planted trees shall be large maturing shade trees. No trees identified as “large maturing” shall be planted within 20 feet of an electrical transmission or distribution line. This does not include low-voltage insulated or covered lines of 240 volts or less or telephone or cablevision lines.

(Code 1983, § 25.5-33; Ord. of 2-5-1996, § 1)

Sec. 122-129. Protection of existing trees required.

(a)    Preservation standards. No tree larger than eight inches DBH may be removed from the tree protection zone without a permit. No grading in this area may proceed prior to the issuance of tree removal permit if one is required by the city. Standards for tree preservation and protection will be published by the tree board.

(b)    Tree survey required. Applications for grading, building and change of use permits on all property, except that which is excluded by section 122-126, shall provide a tree survey which shall include all trees of eight-inch DBH and larger within the tree protection zone and all trees over one inch caliper and six feet in height on the city right-of-way. Stands of southern yellow pine species may be indicated by groups with the average tree DBH.

(c)    Tree protection and planting plan required. All applications for grading plans and building permits shall be accompanied by a tree protection and planting plan which includes the following:

(1)    A tree and root plate protection plan for the existing trees on the public right-of-way.

(2)    A tree and root plate protection plan for existing trees over eight inches DBH in the tree protection zone.

(3)    A planting plan for required trees on public and private property. Plans that are only for required street tree planting may be in written form.

(d)    Property with more than one acre in anticipation of development. Property on which more than one acre of land is cleared shall be required to have a perimeter planting strip (average of eight feet) abutting the public right-of-way, planted as required in section 122-128(a) and (b). This requirement shall be waived if the property is developed within 12 months from the date grading permits have been issued.

(e)    Parking structures. A perimeter planting strip adjacent to the public right-of-way will be required for parking structures. Such planting strip will be equal to the setback requirements for the zoning district but in no case more than 20 feet. This planting strip shall be planted as set out in subsection 122-128(a).

(f)     Tree replacement and protection. When trees required by this division die, they must be replaced during the next suitable planting season. Wheel stops, curbs or other barriers shall be provided where trees might otherwise be damaged by vehicles. Trees shall be allowed to grow to their natural height and form. Topping is prohibited.

(g)    Variances. The tree board may grant a variance from the requirements of this section for the preservation of existing trees or where unusual circumstances exist. A request for a variance must be submitted in writing and be accompanied by a landscape plan noting that which is proposed in lieu of complying with this article. Variance requests will be reviewed, denied or approved within 15 days of their receipt. Requests for a delay in complying with this division, due to poor weather conditions for planting, will be approved following written request. A certificate of occupancy will be issued upon the completion of planting or approval of a request for planting delay. Such request for a delay will note the timeframe during which the planting will be completed. Failure to comply will result in penalties provided for in section 122-29

(Code 1983, § 25.5-34)

Sec. 122-130. Inspection of sites.

(a)    City agents and authorized representatives may periodically inspect sites subject to this division.

(b)    If, through inspection, it is determined that a person has failed to comply with this division, a notice to comply shall be served upon that person by registered mail from the city. The notice shall set forth that which will be necessary to comply with this division.

(c)    The city shall have the power to conduct such investigations as it may reasonably deem necessary to carry out its duties as prescribed in this division and, for this purpose, may enter at reasonable times upon any property, public or private, for the purpose of inspecting the sites subject to this division. No person shall refuse entry or access to any authorized representative or agent of the city who requests entry for the purpose of inspection and who represents appropriate credentials, nor shall any person obstruct, hamper or interfere with such representative while in the process of carrying out his official duties.

(Code 1983, § 25.5-35)

Sec. 122-131. Emergencies.

In an emergency such as windstorm, ice storm, fire, or other disaster, the requirements of this division may be waived by the city during the emergency period so that the requirements of this division would in no way hamper private or public work to restore order in the city. This shall not be interpreted to be a license to circumvent the intent of this division.

(Code 1983, § 25.5-36)

Sec. 122-132. Notice of violation.

Any person who violates any of the sections of this division shall be notified of the specific violation by certified mail.

(Code 1983, § 25.5-37)

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