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PTC may sack tree ordinance as waste of time

Peachtree City’s tree removal permit may become a relic of the past.

It has been ineffective at stunting the numbers of trees removed from the city since it was implemented in 2004, city staff said. Beyond that, administering the program has become especially tedious, requiring two staff visits per site, documentation and other procedures that have taxed the city’s code enforcement department.

Since the permit procedure was enacted, the city has processed more than 7,000 tree removal permits for over 43,000 trees in a six-year timeframe. City Manager Bernie McMullen pointed out that the city has not kept track of how many trees were planted in the same time frame, as some residents when taking trees out are also re-landscaping and add more trees.

The city averages about five tree removal permits a day, and it takes up a half-day’s work for one of the city’s two code enforcement officers, said Community Development Director David Rast. Those officers have been focusing on quality of life issues particularly in some of the city’s older neighborhoods, officials said.

The city does not charge a fee for the permit and, moreover, does not have the authority to prevent any tree from being removed, Rast said.

“It’s a lot of work for very little benefit,” Rast said.

Although the ordinance attempts to protect specimen and “protected” tree varieties, the homeowner may still remove the tree if a certified arborist writes a letter noting that it may fall or be diseased, which makes it in the homeowner’s best interest to take the tree down, Rast said.

Doing away with the tree permit process seemed to be the consensus of council, and Rast is expected to bring the matter back up formally for a vote at a January City Council meeting.

Rast said the city should keep its requirements intact for tree removal companies to register with the city and also be bonded and insured. Doing so should prevent a scenario that happened several years ago when a timber company went to a city subdivision and took down hundreds of good trees, then left the mess of the bad ones behind as a headache for the residents, he said.

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