Tree Ordinance

Glossary of Key Terms

[Section 158-26]


Boundary tree is a tree on adjacent property with a root save area that intrudes across the property line onto an adjacent property.

Buildable area is the portion of a lot available for the construction of a dwelling or other permissible structure after providing required "setbacks" in the front, side, and rear yards.

Critical root zone (or root save area) is the area surrounding a tree that is essential to that tree's health and survival. For a free-standing tree with no appearnet root restriction, the root save area consists of a circle having a radius of one foot for each one inch of diameter at breast height of the tree. Adjustments to the root save area may be made by the city arborist if justified by specific documented site conditions.

Destroy refers to any intentional or negligent act or lack of protection that is more likely than not to cause a tree to die within a period of five years, as determined by the City Arborist. Such acts include, but are not limited to: performing grade changes (including lowering or filling the grade) that affect more than 20 percent of the root save area; trenching of roots, cutting, girdling or infliction of other severe mechanical injury to the trunk, roots, or other vital sections of the tree; removing in excess of 20 percent of the live crown of the tree; inflicting damage upon the root system of a tree by the application of toxic substances; or deliberately burning or setting fire to a tree. In addition, topping, tipping, or any similar improper pruning practices are automatically deemed as destruction of a tree.

Diameter at breast height (DBH) means the diameter of the main stem of a tree, or the combined diameters of a multi-stemmed tree, as measured 4.5 feet above the natural grade at the base. Hardship refers to a unique or otherwise special existing condition that is not addressed by the ordinance.

Hazard tree is a tree with uncorrectable defects severe enough to pose present danger to people or buildings under normal conditions, as determined by the city arborist or city forester.

Illegally removed tree means any tree that is removed or destroyed without a permit.

Lost tree (or Impacted tree) refers to any tree that suffers between 20 percent and 33 percent impact to its critical root zone, but suffers no damage to its structural root plate or other parts and is left standing. If the owner provides a paid-in-full contract for a silvicultural prescription by an ISA certified arborist, a "lost" tree may be classified as a saved tree.

Incursion means any occasion of prohibited activity within an area required to be protected by a tree protection fence.

Injure means any intentional or negligent act, including various tree climbing practices, spiking, trimming, flush cutting, incursion into a designated root save area, and the use of climbing spurs or gaffs on trees not subject to removal that exposes the cambium of a tree to insects or decay organisms.

Private property tree refers to a tree located on private property where more than 50 percent of the flair of the tree interfaces with the earth on that piece of property.

Public property tree refers to a tree located on public property where more than 50 percent of the flair of the tree interfaces with the earth on that piece of property.

Recompense Developers, builders, contractors, homeowners, and others who are unable to plant a sufficient number of replacement trees on their property after removing or destroying trees contribute recompense to a Tree Trust Fund established for planting and maintaining trees in the City of Atlanta. Recompense is the difference between the number of trees removed or destroyed (Nrem) and the number of trees replaced (Nrep) on a site multiplied by the established recompense value ($100). In addition, the difference between the total diameter at breast height of the trees removed or destroyed (TDBHrem) and the total caliper inches of the trees replaced on site (TCIrep) is multiplied by $30. This calculation is described by the following formula:

R = $100.00 (Nrem - Nrep) + $30.00 (TDBHrem - TCIrep), C >=0

For new subdivisions, new lots of record, and vacant lots, a maximum recompense is set at a pro rated per acre basis according to the zoning classification of the property [Section 158-103]. Saved tree means any tree that is protected and not destroyed or injured during construction as required by the ordinance. At least 67 percent of the root save area and the structural root plate must remain undisturbed.

Structural root plate is the zone of rapid root taper that provides for the physical stability of the tree against windthrow. The radius of the root plate is proportional to the stem diameter of a tree. The tree ordinance provides a table of root plate radii for upright trees without restricted roots.

Tree according to the ordinance, a tree is any self-supporting woody, perennial plant that has a trunk diameter of two inches or more when measured at a point six inches above ground level and which normally attains an overall height of at least ten feet at maturity, usually with one main stem or trunk and many branches.

Tree replacement plan refers to the drawing required for construction permit applications which depicts the location, size, and species of existing and replacement trees on the lot for which a permit is sought; a table detailing, by species and DBH, the existing trees to be saved, lost or destroyed, and the replacement trees to be planted, by species and caliper.

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