A permit is required to remove, destroy, or injure any tree on city-owned property, regardless of size, or any tree of 6 inches or greater diameter-at-breast-height (dbh) on private property. There are no exceptions, either by species or present condition [Sec. 158-29; Sec. 158-101(a)].
2. Do I need a permit to remove dead, dying, or diseased (DDH) trees?
Yes. For trees on private property, contact the Arborist Division at 404.546.6813 for an inspection. You may also apply online here. For concerns about trees on public property, including the right-of-way, contact the Forestry Division of the Office of Parks at 404.546.6813. Denied DDH applications may be appealed. Approved permits may not be appealed. DDH permits do not require prior public notice, though the permit must be available on site for public inspection [Sec. 158-101(c)(1)].
3. What if I have a tree that is an immediate hazard and I cannot wait for a City Arborist to assess it?
If you have an emergency (such as a storm-damaged tree or one with heaving roots), and can reasonably demonstrate that a tree presents an imminent hazard or danger to health and safety, you may obtain verbal approval to remove the tree by contacting the Arborist Division by phone: Jorge Rivera, Arboricultural Manager, 404.330.6328, or Frank Mobley, Senior Arborist, 404.330.6076. You must then provide photographs of the tree and an application for a removal permit within five days of the verbal approval. Should you identify such an emergency during non-working hours, you may remove the tree immediately, but must contact the city arborist the next working day to discuss the emergency, and you must submit photographs and request a permit within five working days of the tree's removal. If the information submitted does not demonstrate that the tree presented imminent hazard, the arborist may assess recompense and a fine under the provisions of the ordinance.
4. Why doesn't the Tree Ordinance stop people from taking down perfectly good trees?
The City of Atlanta's ordinance allows for the removal of trees for construction projects such as new homes, new buildings, streets, and infrastructure. Plans for these projects are submitted and reviewed by the Arborist Division (private trees) or Parks Department (public trees). The tree ordinance requires that each applicant for a permit to remove, destroy, or injure trees shall, to the maximum extent feasible, minimize the impact on the trees on the site. For trees that are permitted for removal, replacement trees are planted or recompense is paid, or a combination of both. Recompense is paid into a Tree Trust Fund used for planting and maintaining trees in the City of Atlanta [Section 158-103].
5. What if I see someone removing or destroying a healthy tree?
The tree ordinance requires that any individual cutting or destroying a tree must have a permit in his or her possession. You may contact the Arborist Division at 404.546.6813 to determine if a permit is on record. The City Arborist may issue notices of violation and issue fines for failure to comply with the provisions of the tree ordinance. The Atlanta Police Department may also require persons destroying a tree without a permit to cease such operations until a permit is obtained [Section 158-33].