Enforcement is key to successful outcomes!

It takes a considerable investment in time and effort to develop and adopt a tree ordinance.  Consistent enforcement will ensure that your investment will pay off and your efforts will result in the positive changes to your community forest that you desire.

Before you begin the development or revision process, ask yourself these questions:

  • Will your tree ordinance requirements be enforceable?
  • Who will have the authority to enforce the ordinance?
  • How much knowledge do enforcement personnel have about trees, and their care, health, structure and tolerances?
  • How much time will it take to enforce the tree ordinance, and how much time do enforcement personnel have to devote to education, monitoring, inspection, and enforcement?
  • How much flexibility in waiving requirements do enforcement personnel have?

The answers to these questions will help to guide you toward developing a tree ordinance that you can, and will, enforce successfully.


EDUCATE:  Educate individuals, businesses, and other community groups in the tree ordinance requirements and technical standards. Hold an initial, and then semi-annual information session on the tree ordinance requirements.  Hold an annual workshop on basic tree care standards open to all interested persons.  Encourage developers and building contractors to attend the basic tree care workshop.

COMMIT RESOURCES:  Select one (or more) individuals with sufficient time and tree care knowledge to monitor regulated activities, inspect development sites, and enforce all aspects of the ordinance. Provide continuing education for enforcement personnel in basic tree care standards.  Encourage enforcement personnel to talk with other communities about tree ordinances and their enforcement to share techniques and results.

PROVIDE FLEXIBILITY:  Identify sections in the tree ordinance in which enforcement personnel have discretion to waive or modify requirements while still adhering to the intent of the ordinance. Define those sections in which strict adherence to the tree ordinance is critical to success.

CONDUCT INSPECTIONS:  Include in the tree ordinance when mandatory inspections will take place, the purpose of those inspections and if random inspections will also be conducted.  Include the procedures and sequence of events that will take place when a violation is found during an inspection.

DEFINE VIOLATION PROCEDURES:  Commonly, these procedures include a written notice, followed by a stop work order if the violation is especially egregious or is not corrected within the specified timeframe on the notice of violation, and the penalty that will occur after the stop work order if the violation is not corrected.

Report the nature of violations and enforcement activities to the appropriate board or public officials to keep them informed. Solicit input on ways to improve compliance and reduce the occurrence of common violations.

ESTABLISH FINES:  State in the ordinance the exact penalty or fine that will be assessed when a violation occurs.  In most Georgia communities, the fine for a single violation is limited to a maximum of $500 or $1,000 for violations of any code provision.  In many tree ordinances, fines are assessed for each tree involved in the violation and for each day a violation occurs.  This can result in substantial fines and provides an incentive for avoiding violations or correcting them in a timely manner.

Some communities also establish an additional fine for the damage or destruction of a public tree, which is equal to the appraised value of the tree before the damage or destruction occurred.

MAINTAIN CONSISTENCY:  Maintain awareness of what’s happening on a site and be quick and consistent in enforcing tree ordinance requirements.  Don’t vary enforcement from site to site, person to person, or over time, unless authorized to do so by the tree ordinance administrator.  When regulations are waived, record such waivers in writing.