The Atlanta Tree Protection Ordinance rewrite that mysteriously halted in November is back on track, according a quiet update on a city webpage credited to City Planning Commissioner Tim Keane. The update says a first draft could be available in March and a final vote in August.

“The City of Atlanta intends to enact a substantially new Tree Protection Ordinance in 2020,” the update reads in part. “…The Department of City Planning is leading this effort and is anxious to get to a detailed proposal for consideration by City Council.”

City Councilmember J.P. Matzigkeit of Buckhead’s District 8 learned about the update from the Reporter. He is among the councilmembers who vowed to make a revised ordinance happen this year, with or without administration help. He said he was excited to hear about the update.

“This legislation is extremely important to protect Atlanta’s unique tree canopy while allowing responsible development to continue,” said Matzigkeit in a written statement. “I’m committed to ending clear-cutting and also allowing residents to more easily remove trees on heavily wooded lots. I look forward to working with my constituents, the administration and my fellow council members to get this done ASAP!”

The new Atlanta Tree Protection Ordinance revision timeline posted on the city website.

The tree ordinance has been in a rewrite phase for months – or years, through various processes – amid concerns that clear-cutting remains too easy in a city that prides itself on its urban forest.

The process stalled Nov. 7, when the Department of City Planning abruptly canceled a Buckhead community meeting with virtually no notice or explanation aside from a note placed on its website just hours beforehand. The immediate cause was negative reaction from a crowd – including many Buckhead residents – at a meeting the previous day in South Atlanta over both lack of detail and unhappiness with what details were presented.

The re-start of the process appears to have come with similar limited notice. The update to the city’s “Urban Ecology Framework” webpage is undated, but includes a new timeline for the draft ordinance review that is dated this month.

The timeline calls for finishing a draft ordinance by mid-February, then soliciting public comment on a first draft in March, a second draft in June, and a third draft in July. The timeline then calls for taking the third and final draft to the City Council and Neighborhood Planning Units for review and a final vote in August.

The webpage says that comments can be sent to the project team at or to Urban Ecology Framework Project Manager Andrew Walter at or 404-546-0129.

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.