Tree regulations have become one of the major factors impacting development in and around Metro-Atlanta. The cost associated with these regulations ranges from the cost of installing one tree up to and potentially exceeding $1,000,000. These regulations also vary from simple tree protection plans without replacement requirements to comprehensive ordinances that place regulation on tree protection and replacement; to specimen tree removal and replacement; to alternative compliance (tree banks); or landscape requirements including shrubs, groundcover, and turf installations.
The Atlanta Metropolitan Planning Organization consists of 18 counties surrounding the City of Atlanta. Each of these counties has tree and/or landscape regulations. Within these counties there are 108 cities and towns with a total of 80 tree and/or landscape regulations. This creates a total of 98 different tree and landscape ordinances, each with their own procedures on how to permit, protect, replace, design, install, and maintain the built environment within these jurisdiction. See the graphic below.
Alternative compliance, commonly called a tree bank, refers to a process that allows fees to be paid, or trees to be planted on public property, in the event a development site cannot accommodate all the required replacement trees. Some jurisdictions do not allow alternative compliance, and require all trees be located onsite. If the proposed development plan cannot accommodate them, the plan must be revised or a variance sought. Both of these options could cause serious delays in a project’s timeline if not properly vetted during the due-diligence period.
Assessing a location for your project should no longer involve just population, growth projections, transportation access, and open land; due diligence should also include the cost of tree regulations and the built environment as regulated by a particular jurisdiction.
Our team of land planners and landscape architects work closely with many jurisdictions throughout the region and beyond to ensure that projects are appropriately and fairly permitted. Call on our team when you need to understand tree ordinance impacts to your project budget and schedule.