Decatur Names New City Arborist

The City of Decatur has hired Kay Evanovich to the position of Landscape Infrastructure Coordinator.  Kay brings her experience as a site development inspector for DeKalb County and as the past CIty arborist for Brookhaven.

The Landscape Infrastructure Coordinator is part of the Design, Environment & Construction Division, and is responsible for administration of the Tree Conservation Ordinance among other critical environmental duties.  

Contact: 678-553-6527

DeKalb Names New County Arborist

DeKalb County has hired Russell Tonning to the position of County Arborist.  

The County Arborist is part of the DeKalb County Planning & Sustainability Department, and is responsible for administration of the Tree Conservation Ordinance.  

Contact: 404-637-3700

Do I need a Permit in Decatur to Remove a Tree?


A permit is required if:

  • Property owners in residential districts would like to remove dead, diseased, or hazardous trees (with moderate to high risk rating) and or
  • Property owners in residential districts would like to remove up to three healthy protected trees within an 18 month period.

According to the Tree Canopy Conservation Ordinance, property owners in residential zoning districts are allowed to remove up to 3 healthy, protected trees during an 18 month period.  A tree information permit is filed with the City to track the reasons for the tree removal, the amount of tree canopy removed, and a plan for replanting if applicable. …

What is the Best Tree?

Crepemyrtle in Atlanta

Selecting a tree for the landscape is a bit of art, and a bit of science.  But a person does not need to be a professional artist or a scientist to pick the right tree, they just need to ask the right questions.

I like to jot down a list of all the trees that might work in a particular spot.  Then I start asking myself key questions that will help me narrow down my selection, crossing off the trees that just won’t work.  What remains is my short list of top candidates for planting.  Here are the three basic questions that should be answered before trotting off to the nursery in your pickup truck:

Brookhaven Requires Certified Arborist approval

Starting September 26, 2014, the City of Brookhaven requires that all building permits and land disturbance applications have the approval of a private certified arborist.  The certified arborist is to verify the accuracy of critical tree information on the project site as follows:

Needed by City Arborist:

  • Specimen tree report prepared by Certified Arborist, must include and/or accompany a site plan with locations of specimen trees, accurate sizes and species, description of tree’s condition, photographs to illustrate defects (digital format acceptable)

Orange-striped oakworm

The Orange-striped oakworm can be abundant on Red oak species from June through September.  Small trees are often defoliated by mid summer.  Total defoliation is never a good situation for any tree, and the negative long-term affects on tree energy reserves are unfairly discounted by many diagnosticians.  

Defoliation in the middle of the growing season results in the tree expending energy reserves, and can result in a net reduction of produced energy by the tree.  

Caterpillars are easily identified as large adults, but in younger stages they can go undetected by the casual observer since the small caterpillars are green and easily blend into the foliage.

Top 10 Things You Need to Know About the New Decatur Tree Ordinance

On July 7 the new Decatur Tree Ordinance takes effect.  This ordinance is very different from the previous one.  It is a canopy-based ordinance rather than a density-based ordinance.  Some of the provisions could affect the way a residential site is designed and built.

Here are the top 10 things you need to know about the tree ordinance:

1. There is a new class of tree: Boundary Tree.  This is a tree growing on a neighboring parcel that has 20% or more of its critical root zone growing into the adjoining parcel.  There will be a 3-years escrow requirement for impacted Boundary trees, to include the potential cost of removing and replacing the lost canopy should the tree decline or die within the 3-year period.  …

What happens to your tree after it is cut down?

A good tree care contractor can cut down a tree, clean up the mess in your yard, and make it look like the tree was never there.  But what happens to all the limbs, branches, and trunk wood after the workers leave?

To keep costs reasonable for their customers, a tree care contractor cannot afford to drive all over creation looking for a place to dispose of the tree.  Truck fuel is very expensive, and their big truck does not get very good gas milage.  In urban areas contractors have come up with several options to get rid of tree waste:

Green Landfill.

Brookhaven Enforces Tree Permits

Yes, you need a permit to remove trees in the CIty of Brookhaven, GA. 

On December 19, the CIty of Brookhaven issued a press release (note that the link to the tree removal permit application is broken):

Brookhaven, GA, Dec. 19, 2013 – There has been confusion caused by recent inaccurate statements in news reports claiming that Brookhaven does not have a tree ordinance. In fact, the Brookhaven City Council adopted a tree ordinance on Dec. 17, 2012 at its first meeting.

The ordinance mirrors DeKalb County’s tree ordinance. Under the ordinance, single-family homeowners may remove up to five non-specimen trees per calendar year. Diseased, dead and insect-infested trees, as well as trees that are a danger to human lives or property, are exempt from the ordinance.

Anyone removing trees should complete an application, available at

“The ordinance is designed to help preserve and/or replace trees as more development comes to Brookhaven,” Mayor J. Max Davis said.

To view the ordinance, visit

The above link does not take you directly to the ordinance.  It will take you to the unified city code, which means you have to search and sort to find the tree stuff.  Onebark has the full ordinance here.

To apply for the removal of trees, the permit application requires photo documentation, arborist certification, and evaluation of the remaining tree density.  …

City of Decatur revises Tree Ordinance

The City of Decatur, Georgia, has adopted a revision to their current tree ordinance. This revision is intended to close a 'loophole' whereby a property owner or contractor could potentially remove trees from a residential site prior to obtaining a demolition or building permit, thereby avoiding having to pay recompense as part of plan submittal. 

Section 86.82. (1) “The terms and provisions of the ordinance shall apply to the yard areas of all R60 and R85 zoned properties that are pending real estate sale or title transfer or have been sold or title transferred in the past 18 months. The terms and provisions of the ordinance shall apply to all areas of a R60 and R85 zoned properties that are pending demolition or have had a dwelling on the site that has been demolished in the past 18 months.” 

Another key provision (and most significant) is the requirement of a Certified Arborist, Registered Landscape Architect, or Registered Forester as part of building plan submittal.  The change states:

Section 86-83 (b). All tree protection and tree placement plans must be prepared and signed by a certified arborist, landscape architect, or registered forester. 

The revision is effective as of May 2013.

Dogwood Tree Care Handbook

The first volume of Tree Care Handbooks, Flowering Dogwood, is a new peer-reviewed guide to the American native, Cornus florida.  It is designed to be a quick, accurate, and complete reference tool for anyone engaged in the care of this tree.  Hobbyists, professionals, and gardeners will appreciate the crisp format and abundance of up-to-date information.  We are offering this tool as a free download.

How Gwinnett County regulates tree removal

So I get asked this a lot:

Do I need a permit to remove trees in Gwinnett County?

Yes. and No. It's a little complicated.  Gwinnett county has a comprehensive tree ordinance, called the Gwinnett County Tree and Landscape Buffer ordinance.  It contains all the guidelines for tree replacement and tree protection during land development activities.  This ordinance helps maintain the tree cover in Gwinnett (over time) by requiring minimum standards for reforestation after land clearing, and also protects natural buffers between differing zoning types.  For example, the ordinance may require an undisturbed buffer between a new commercial district that borders a residential subdivision.  …

Atlanta City Arborist neighborhoods

Effective September 2, 2010

NW: Michael Franklin, 404.330.6079

NE: David Tachon, 404.330.6077

SW & SE: Stan Domengeaux, 404.330.6078

The Arborist Division administers and enforces the City of Atlanta Tree Ordinance. Protecting and permitting the removal of trees can be done either under a building permit or through an application to remove a dead, dying, diseased, or hazardous tree.

The division conducts building plan reviews related to trees, verifies trees to be removed and posts properties prior to tree removal under building permits (this allows the public to appeal the decisions). …

Atlanta Storms - part 3


This chart shows the occurrences of defects in trees that failed (or broke in some way) during the April storms. These findings are from my own casual research:

Defect Visible - this refers to the trees that had a visible problem that indicated the tree was a risk

Defect Discoverable - these trees had a visible problem, but the problem was only identifiable through a full inspection and risk assessment

Defect Not Visible - these trees had a serious problem that predisposed them to failure, but the problem would not have been easily discovered, even by a professional. …

Atlanta Storms - part 2

When storms cause damage over a wide geographical area, people tend to develop a general sense of apprehension, even fear, about trees. Our trees grow very tall in Atlanta, and very quickly too. They can be intimidating especially when you are standing under one.

To me a storm can seem like a wake-up call. Are my trees still safe? Will my house get it next time? After seeing how many trees failed this week, I made the decision to now remove a tree in my own yard - one that in the past, I've accepted a level of risk that was little higher than I would typically tolerate. …

Atlanta Storms - part 1

pine certified arborist atlanta

Trees break. Trees snap. Trees fall.

It is the order of all things green. Trees are designed to grow, reproduce, and collapse. It is an inexorable fate.

This week's round of downdraft storms reminds us of the fragility of all plant life. Dr. Alex Shigo called trees "the most massive, longest lived organisms on earth," yet eventually the old woody system fails so as to make way for the new. We manage, inspect, and care for the trees in our landscapes, but we just can't seem to predict when the strength of a storm will overtake the steadfastness of an oak.

Freak Windstorm Batters Trees Across Atlanta

storm certified arborist

This morning, the metro residents were awakened to several hours of falling trees and limbs.

Although the weather system did not look particularly ominous, I struck out for my morning appointments. In northwest Atlanta, I was greeted by residential streets blocked by both dead and live trees that had toppled across the roadways. In one instance, as I backed away from a fallen tree in the Margaret Mitchell neighborhood, I caught a glimpse of a pine falling across the street behind me. I was now actually blocked on both sides!

I was able to get out of my Jeep, and quickly pull back enough of the tree top to create an escape route. …

Fulton County Specimen Trees

specimen tree certified arborist

I was talking with a friend at an engineering firm last week, and they told me that Fulton County is no longer going out to sites to evaluate specimen trees prior to plan submittal. This is a growing trend among municipalities in Atlanta metro. 

The counties typically rely on the accuracy and professional standards of Certified Arborists to prepare tree information on site.

Some of our customers have been asking wether we complete specimen tree inventories and the answer is YES, of course, and we are quite good at it. We've been successfully preparing inventories in Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, Alpharetta, Roswell, and all over Atlanta.

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