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After Hours-Long Debate, a Delay on Decatur's Tree Ordinance

Many who spoke said the proposal is too broad in scope, too cost-punitive on single-family homeowners, puts the city at risk for lawsuits and will decrease property values.

It was standing-room-only at Tuesday night's marathon Decatur City Commission meeting regarding a proposed tree canopy ordinance. PHOTO CREDIT: Péralte Paul
It was standing-room-only at Tuesday night's marathon Decatur City Commission meeting regarding a proposed tree canopy ordinance. PHOTO CREDIT: Péralte Paul

The Decatur City Commission decided Tuesday to delay voting on the highly controversial tree ordinance proposal until March.

The 4-1 vote to table the controversial measure — Mayor Jim Baskett was the sole dissenter — followed more than two hours of discussion in which the commissioners heard from scores of residents.

Many who spoke said the proposal is too broad in scope, too cost-punitive on single-family homeowners, puts the city at risk for lawsuits and will decrease property values.

"It needs to be responsible," homeowner Heather Tell told commissioners. "Respect property owners' rights."

All of roughly 30 residents who spoke, including two who work for the city of Atlanta on its tree canopy enforcement, said they support Decatur's goal to revamp its existing ordinance.

But more comprehensive thought is needed, with the majority of residents saying they couldn't support the proposed ordinance as currently written.

Commissioners thought making some changes regarding residents' most pressing concerns might be enough to get an acceptable resolution and vote.

Indeed, they approved an amendment that would reduce the residential canopy coverage from 55 percent to 50 percent among other changes.

But residents still resisted, arguing the desire for a speedy resolution shouldn't have come at the expense of a well thought out plan.

It was a concern echoed by District 2 Commissioner Patti Garrett, who proposed the motion to delay the vote until March.

"If we don't have good support for this, enforcement will be a nightmare," Garrett said.

"There are parts of it that I really like, but there are other parts that I want to make sure we tweak."

What do you think of the City Commission's decision? What, if anything, should be done with respect to Decatur's tree ordinance? Tell us in the comments section below.

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