As the city arborist for Dunwoody, I get asked all kinds of tree questions. Most revolve around “how-to” and “how-not-to’ issues. I’m glad so many of our residents recognize the value in our tree canopy, and I’m hopeful they will maintain and add to their property with a healthy stand of trees.
Trees benefit our community in many ways, including:
Cooler ambient temperatures; the cooling effect of water evaporating from tree leaves serves to lower surrounding air temperatures.
Quieter neighborhoods; an established tree line can create a noise block that dissipates sound as it travels through the branches and leaves.
Reduced energy costs; trees shade our homes and businesses, reducing the interior temperature in the summer months, meaning less of a need for air conditioning to maintain a pleasant room air temperature.
However, not all trees benefit the community. For any number of reasons, as some trees get older they may become a nuisance, or become sick or damaged and simply need to be removed. I receive questions nearly every day about tree removals: “Does Dunwoody require a permit to remove trees?” and “What’s allowable and what isn’t when it comes to removing trees in Dunwoody?’
I can tell, from the nature of the questions I receive, that there are a number of misconceptions surrounding the city’s policy on tree removals. The most significant point of incorrect information is that the city prohibits tree removals. With a few exceptions, there is very little in the Dunwoody code that reads a private homeowner cannot remove an existing tree on his or her own personal property. Those exceptions include: when the removal is a function of a larger construction project, or when a healthy tree exists in a city stream buffer.
The city’s Tree Preservation Ordinance (Chapter 16, Article 2, Division 5, ¤16-195) is the controlling ordinance that references the standards for most tree removals in Dunwoody. The applicability for this section (16-195(d)) only requires compliance if the tree removal is a part of a larger site development, such as an addition or renovation on a house, or building a pool, etc. Therefore, so long as the tree removal isn’t a function of site development and is simply discretionary tree removal outside of a stream buffer, then the homeowner may remove trees on the property.
The follow-up question I generally receive asks, “If tree removal is allowable, then why does the city require a tree removal permit?” We still ask everyone to fill out a tree removal form. This form can be found on the city’s website, as well as in our permitting office in city hall. Dunwoody does not compel a person by law to secure a tree removal permit to remove trees. Instead, we request that applicants submit notice of pending tree removals for the protection of the property owner. The permit makes owners aware of our tree removal policy and helps ensure compliance with our code. Without advanced information, neither the city nor the applicant can be certain all codes are being followed properly.
The best policy to be sure you are not breaking any code is to contact the Dunwoody Community Development department directly at (678) 382-6800. We are here to help you by answering your questions, so please utilize our staff as a resource. Knowing the code and creating a plan for proper tree removal ensures a smooth, safe and environmentally friendly experience for everyone.