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PTC says 'no' to tree removal ban

Favoring private property rights over government intervention, the Peachtree City Council unanimously sacked a proposed six-month ban on the removal of trees.

The proposed ban was aimed at giving staff time to develop an ordinance that will give the city more teeth to help protect trees. Instead of the ban, city staff plans on making a detailed presentation of potential options at the council’s annual retreat in March.

Included in that presentation will be recommendations on how other municipalities handle tree protection, said Community Development Director David Rast.

Prior to the vote, Mayor Don Haddix said he favored the moratorium, in part because the six-month time frame would help keep the matter from falling by the wayside.

The moratorium would not have affected residents who needed to remove trees to make room for an addition to their home or a new pool, for example, because those cases are handled as land disturbance permits for new construction, Rast said.

The moratorium would have affected homeowners and businesses that wanted to remove a trees for most other reasons though. An exception would have allowed the removal of trees that endanger property or human life and also the removal of trees that are diseased or damaged.

Councilwoman Vanessa Fleisch said she was concerned about the effect the moratorium would have on tree removal companies that operate in the city.

“I think the moratorium is going to have some unintended consequences,” Fleisch said.

The moratorium was initially suggested by several councilmembers at a workshop meeting, and city staff was directed to prepare a moratorium for consideration.

But council swung in the other direction Thursday night, deciding to wait for staff’s presentation instead of enacting the tree removal ban. Councilwoman Kim Learnard apologized to city staff for pushing them in that direction, which some residents have considered an extreme measure.

Councilman Doug Sturbaum asked representatives of tree removal companies in the audience to work with the city on the issue.

The more than 39,000 trees that have been felled in the city since 2004 “is a lot of lumber,” Sturbaum noted.

Councilman Eric Imker said he wanted council to swiftly address the staffing issue created by the city’s tree removal permit process, which doesn’t give the city any leeway to prevent a property owner from removing trees.

Rast previously has said that the tree removal permit process creates an awful lot of work for the city’s two code enforcement officials merely to document how many trees are removed on a given parcel.

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