News - Avondale Estates

For not caring enough to stay green

One might imagine that a town that so clearly prides itself on its designation as a so-called "Tree City" — the second in Georgia to be so named by the Arbor Day Foundation, in fact — would take extra care in seeing that local developers don't ignore directives to preserve trees.

But the city of Avondale Estates apparently dropped the ball with regard to one Bill Rhodes, who is planning a 14-home subdivision on the northeast end of the tiny DeKalb burg. The slip-up is all the more inexplicable, given that neighboring homeowners had showed early concern and followed the process every step of the way.

The variance Rhodes was granted this summer mandated that he preserve at least eight of the largest trees on the heavily wooded, 2.35-acre property on Old Rockbridge Road. The city even briefly halted site-clearing work to encourage him to submit his tree-preservation plan, as required by the variance.

In the end, however, the site has been reduced all too typically to a wasteland of mud and bulldozer tracks. Of the middling-sized hardwoods, only four remain, and those suffered broken branches and other damage when other trees were allowed to fall against them. The most significant tree, a 44-inch giant Southern red oak that a county arborist gave decent odds of surviving the construction, is headed to the saw mill.

City Commissioner Sandra Varian, who blames city officials for not enforcing the terms of the variance, says she plans to address the apparent violation at the commission's Nov. 24 meeting. But if the city didn't care enough to monitor the tree-cutting, why would it bother to investigate now that the damage has already been done? For his part, Rhodes says he's in compliance with the city's order.

Hey, we realize that, in the grand scheme of things, this one case isn't a huge deal. It's just one more instance of a municipality not making the effort to ensure that trees are preserved whenever possible and practical. It's the reason metro Atlanta has gained a reputation for wanton deforestation and the suburbs are expanding into oceans of asphalt. It doesn't have to be this way.

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