The city of Decatur is asking residents to weigh in on how it could make the city more sustainable and protect its trees.
Decatur’s 2010 strategic plan called for the development of a sustainability plan and Lena Stevens, a resource conservation coordinator for the city of Decatur, said the city held two seminars April 3-4 to inform residents and start a dialogue about sustainability.
Decatur has a nine-member environmental sustainability board (ESB) made up of residents that recently drafted a sustainability plan and posted it online for feedback.
The draft addresses seven categories related to sustainability, including government management practices, food and agriculture, buildings and energy, and resource conservation and waste reduction.
However, Stevens said after reviewing feedback from residents the ESB realized it had left out two issues that were incredibly important to residents: historic preservation and protecting Decatur’s tree canopy.
“The issue of trees came about because there are a lot of people in this community concerned about what’s happening on private property as people build,” Stevens said.
Stevens said current zoning regulations are lax regarding building on private property and what to do with the trees on the land. She said because of this the ESB is conducting a tree canopy study and developing an urban forest plan.
On April 3, the city of Decatur and the ESB hosted a seminar, “Historic Preservation—Respecting the Past and Meeting the Needs of the Future,” at Agnes Scott College.
The event featured speakers Susan Kidd, sustainability director at Agnes Scott College, and Mark McDonald, president of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. Stevens said the purpose of the seminar was to encourage adaptive reuse or restoration of historic buildings. Additionally, panelists discussed the relationship between historic preservation and environmental sustainability.
“I think the reason it’s important to have some of these speakers is that they’re professionals and experts, and they’re tied into the local scene,” Stevens said.
The second seminar held April 4, concentrated on protecting Decatur’s tree canopy. Ed Macie, an arborist for the city of Decatur, explained the resource value of Decatur’s current tree canopy.
Macie and residents also reviewed possible amendments to the tree ordinance, and to the permit process to remove trees from single family properties.
“We thought it would be really good for us to sit down and talk about ordinance changes all the way down to educational efforts,” Stevens said. “It’s really to facilitate a community conversation.”
Stevens said unlike the strategic plan, which is revisited every five years, the purpose of the environmental sustainability plan needs to be more flexible. Therefore, Stevens said the sustainability plan would be revisited every two years.
Both the ESB and the Decatur City Commission will be asked to approve the sustainability plan. Stevens said the city’s goal is to have it adopted by the end of May.