Alternative Compliance

When 100% compliance with tree density regulations will result in limited growing space for trees, a conflict between trees and the permitted use of the site, or other conditions undesirable to the property owner or the city, then having a method of alternative compliance is helpful to maintaining tree canopy cover.

Alternative compliance usually takes the form of either a tree bank for establishing trees off-site, or a tree fund which receives payments in lieu of tree conservation or planting.

Recompense is a method of complying with tree conservation or specimen tree protection requirements by paying for tree density removed that cannot be replaced on the site.

The use of alternative compliance requires the approval of the city arborist or administrator in most cases, but in some cases requires the submittal of a variance request.


When the conservation or establishment of trees on-site to satisfy tree density requirements is not practical, some communities may approve a limited amount of tree density for planting off-site, in a tree bank.

The community may have public areas that serve as tree banks, or may require the trees be placed on private property.  A tree plan is still required, and the tree density planted off-site according to the tree plan usually are required to remain on that site in perpetuity.


A tree fund is a revenue account established by the community to receive alternative compliance payments, recompense payments (see below), donations to the community’s tree program, and fines and penalties for violation of the tree ordinance.  A standard rate of dollars per specified amount of tree density (tree density units, DBH inches, tree canopy square footage, etc.) is established in the ordinance or referenced and included in the community’s fee schedule.

cropped-toolbox-latest.jpgIn Georgia, at least 51 communities have a tree fund.  In some of these cases, the tree fund is actually called a tree bank, but still functions as a revenue account.  In a few cases (Cherokee County, Clayton County, Eatonton, Milton, and Moultrie) the tree bank cited in the regulations acts like a true tree bank (planting) system as described above.

A list of the 51 communities in Georgia that have tree funds and tree banks can be downloaded here.

A few communities (Hinesville, Pine Lake, Sandy Springs, and Savannah) include the establishment of an escrow account in their tree ordinances for the deposit of funds by an individual responsible for the protection of conserved trees, boundary trees or trees on adjacent properties that could be damaged by permitted construction activities.


A special form of payments into the tree bank is recompense.  Recompense is often required to pay for specimen tree density removed, regardless of what trees remain on the site or whether tree density requirements are otherwise met.  A standard rate of dollars per tree density unit is established and usually shown on a community’s fee schedule.  This rate is used to calculate the recompense payment, which is then deposited into the community’s tree fund and used for the planting and maintenance of trees on public property.