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.  Funds would be released from escrow upon inspection by the City Arborist.  

2. All trees 6” DBH or greater are’ ‘Protected trees’ and will fall under the scope of the tree ordinance. 

3. The Critical Root Zone is now 1.25 feet of radius per inch of trunk diameter (up from 1 foot radius for every 1 inch diameter). No disturbance will be allowed within 10 feet of the trunk of any tree. 

4. Canopy cover is determined by the ACTUAL ground area beneath existing trees, measured in square feet.  Trees 4” or greater are eligible for credit.

5. Specimen trees are 27” DBH (or 10” for Redbuds and Dogwoods). Conserving these trees gives you double the canopy credit.

6. ‘Impact’ is defined as disturbance that has the potential to affect 20% or more of the Tree Protection Zone.

7. For residential disturbance sites, there is a ‘no net loss’ requirement for the canopy.  This does NOT mean that all trees have to be conserved; however the original area of canopy cover must be replaced through replanting or payment into the tree bank.

8. For residential disturbance sites, no less than 25% of the canopy must be conserved.

9. If a commercial project increases the impervious cover or gross floor area by 15% or more, then the site must meet a 45% canopy cover requirement.  The requirement can be met through conservation, replanting, or a combination of both.

10. Planting bonds/security are now required.  The bond term is 3-years and is equal to 125% of tree planting expenses, as determined by the City Arborist.

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