Tree

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Forsyth County is working to tighten the reins on developers to put an end to clear-cutting and mass grading. The county is ironing out changes to its tree ordinance and soil and erosion regulations intended to preserve trees and minimize land disturbance.

Vanessa Bernstein-Goldman, deputy director with the county’s Planning and Community Development Department, outlined the drafted changes to county commissioners at their Oct. 22 meeting.

The tree ordinance updates include added requirements on developers before and after construction.

A major requirement under the proposal is that 10 percent of trees existing on a property must be saved for a residential development. County staff has proposed administrative variances for the 10 percent figure based on lot size or width.

Prior to breaking ground, a developer will be required to submit a tree survey of the property and meet with the county arborist. Tree “groupings” must also be outlined to be preserved, and a post-development tree survey will be mandatory.

The minimum size for replacement trees is increased under the proposal, with incentives to developers for tree density.

For developments that cannot meet the requirements, planting trees on public property will be permitted to reach the necessary tree density. Recompense trees will also be permitted to be planted throughout the property, not just in common areas of residential neighborhoods.

Bernstein-Goldman said the tree ordinance goes hand-in-hand with county soil erosion and sedimentation regulations, and she presented proposed updates to those requirements as well.

For new residential communities of 25 acres or more, a proposed regulation would limit the amount of land disturbance that could occur at one time in a contiguous area.

Hardship waivers could be granted based on topography, existing vegetation, streams or other characteristics of the property, but that language is still being tweaked. Commissioner Dennis Brown said, as proposed, the language for determining a hardship could be subjective.

Bernstein-Goldman said the updates to the county’s ordinances will fall in line with potential changes to Forsyth’s unified development code, and the changes could go into effect in March.

Meanwhile, the next public hearings for the tree and soil erosion regulation revisions will go back before commissioners in December.

Several members of the tree ordinance stakeholder committee spoke in favor of the proposals. One member suggested the county arborist should have a larger role, including more involvement in other departments that deal with trees, and giving approval to replanting proposals.

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