City of Valdosta, Georgia

Chapter-328 – Landscape, Buffers and Screening

Valdosta is the 14th largest city in Georgia, with a population of 56,474 (2016) and an area of 36 square miles.  The city is the county seat of Lowndes County, located on Georgia’s southern border.

valdosta map
Lowndes County is highlighted in orange on the state map on the left; the City of Valdosta is highlighted in red on the Lowndes County map to the right.

Tree City USA and Tree Board

The City of Valdosta has been a Tree City USA for 31 years.  The Valdosta Tree Commission was established in 1984 and by city code in Chapter 2 – Administration, Article V. – Boards, Commissions and Authorities, Section, Division 4. – Tree Commission.   As described on the City of Valdosta website, the Valdosta Tree Commission consists of 8 members appointed by the Mayor and Council and 2 employees–the city arborist and city marshal–who are ex-officio members of the commission.

The website states that the Valdosta Tree Commission was established:

“…for the purpose of regulating the planting, maintenance and removal of trees and shrubs in public places, providing for the pruning and removal of trees on private property which endangers public safety, and to generally improve the general welfare and health of the people of the City by promoting informed management of the City’s urban forest.”

The Valdosta Tree Commission is also responsible for recommending changes to the city’s tree regulations.


Tree Department and City Arborist

The Urban Forestry Supervisor is the City Arborist and operates within the Arbor Division of the Engineering Department (other divisions within the department include Engineering Services, Traffic Management and Stormwater).  The City Arborist is responsible for providing technical support for the administration of Chapter 328 in addition to other duties.

City Arborist Kevin Jenkins
Urban Forestry Supervisor
Certified Arborist FL-5760A
kjenkins@valdostacity.com / (229) 259-3530 office phone

Tree Ordinance

The city’s tree ordinance is incorporated into Chapter 328 of the City of Valdosta Land Development Regulations (LDR) and was revised in 2016.  In the LDR, Chapter 106 – Definitions and Abbreviations (revised 2015) contains the definitions used in Chapter 328, and Appendix A – Permitted, Protected and Prohibited Tree and Plant Guide (revised 2015) to the LDR includes the tree and plant species listed used in the application of Chapter 328.

Chapter 328 includes two articles.  Article 1 – Buffers and Screening includes requirements for transitional buffers, including vegetative and non-vegetative screening.  Article 2 – Tree Protection and Replacement and Landscaping, includes the majority of the tree regulations.

Tree Regulations Summary

Applicability All undeveloped property, and existing commercial or multi-family residential developments that undergo substantial improvements (improvement exceeds 25 percent of the ad valorem tax value, with partial compliance required for 25 to 49 percent, and full compliance at or greater than 50 percent of the ad valorem tax value); and, expansion of vehicular use areas.
Exemptions Current developed and existing property zoned single-family or two-family residential (except when city canopy trees are affected); developed and existing property zoned M-1 or M-2, except for street yard and vehicular use areas landscape requirements; any parcel of land within the downtown commercial zoning district (C-D) tree removal by single-family residential property owners; agriculture land use; tree nurseries, orchards and botanical gardens; trees removed during periods of emergency; diseased, damaged or infested trees with written confirmation by the City Arborist; timber harvesting; pruning or trimming of trees for beautification or removal of dead or diseased limbs, as long as pruning is done in accordance with ANSI A300 standards.
Definitions

 

Canopy trees are large trees or group of trees with a distinct presence in the landscape or forest; large and medium trees identified as canopy trees are listed in the tree ordinance appendix.
Critical root zone is 1 foot of distance from the trunk for every 1-inch DBH.
Specimen trees include: live oaks and magnolias (grandiflora) 14 inches DBH and larger; longleaf and spruce pines 10 inches DBH and larger; all other canopy species 16 inches DBH and larger; and, small species 6 inches DBH and larger.
A tree is defined as a single-stemmed woody plant with a trunk diameter of at least 1.5 inches and a height of 10 feet.
Tree Removal Permit Required to prior to tree removal or the beginning of development or improvements, or the issuance of a land disturbance permit; must be accompanied by a site drawing to scale with complete tree inventory and proposed landscaping plan, showing all trees to be saved and removed; all specimen trees and trees 6 inches DBH and greater must be located and identified on the tree inventory; reviewed by city arborist within 10 days of submittal.
Landscape Permit Required prior to the issuance of a land disturbance permit or building permit; must include a tree protection and replacement plan; reviewed by city arborist within 10 days of submittal.
Tree Species List Found in Appendix A of LDR; all trees and other planting material must be selected from the approved species lists; any deviation requires prior authorization from the City Arborist.
Arboricultural Standards Included for tree protection, tree placement, minimum planting area and root zones, tree planting, pruning and safety.
Tree Density Requirements All properties must be developed with a minimum of 15% of the total area developed as greenspace; residential subdivisions must have a street yard landscaped with 3 trees and 20 shrubs per 75 linear feet; 1 tree and 5 shrubs for every 2,100 square feet of vehicular use area (60% of trees must be canopy trees); 1 tree required for every 50 linear feet in side and rear yards.
Tree Conservation Tree removal permit required for specimen and canopy trees; preservation of specimen and canopy trees is given special consideration; the city desires to preserve all existing trees wherever possible in development.
Tree Replacement Specimen softwood trees are replaced on a one-for-one basis; replacement of other specimen trees is required with 25 percent of the total diameter of the trees removed, with a minimum of 2.5-inch caliper trees, except that small specimen trees are replaced with 2.0-inch caliper trees.
Buffers Transitional buffers required with supplemental plantings if vegetation is non-existent or inadequate to meet screening requirements;
Performance Bond New tree plantings may be postponed for up to 3 months with a performance bond if planting stock is not available or weather conditions are not appropriate.
Tree Bank

 

Tree Bank Fund established for the planting and installation of trees on public property, as approved by the Valdosta Tree Commission; amount of contribution to the fund for alternative compliance is based on the number, size and type of trees that cannot be planted on the site; City Arborist determines the cost associated with the trees.
Inspections Initial inspection, protection inspection before tree removal or site disturbance, and final inspection of development projects; periodic inspections may occur; 5 years after development completion to ensure compliance and that all plants are thriving and healthy; an inspection for the performance bond and temporary certificate of occupancy may also occur.
Enforcement Responsibility of the office of inspection, with assistance of the City Arborist; process consists of notice of violation, a stop work order, a notice of compliance allowing work to continue upon satisfactory completion of corrective action.
Penalties $250 for first offense with past 12 months, $500 for second offense, $1,000 for third and subsequent offenses; for crape myrtle topping, the first offense will be a warning only, and subsequent offenses treated the same as other offenses.

What the City Says About Their Tree Ordinance

We asked the City of Valdosta, Arbor Division, some questions about their tree ordinance.  Here’s what they said.

What do you think is most effective in your tree ordinance?

The most effective part of our ordinance is not what is written, but the unwritten, which is our supportive leadership.  You can have the best ordinance in place, but without supportive leadership it cannot be effective.

What do you think could be improved or changed to make the ordinance more effective?

We need more education for both the general public and professionals to help promote the importance of a healthy and diverse urban forest.

What do you think is unique about your ordinance?

The most unique aspect is the stance we took on topping of crepe myrtles.  Topping is not an acceptable practice for any tree, however, instead of ignoring the continuous topping or removing them from our approved list of trees, we chose to find a common ground answer through a one-time warning before implementing the progressive penalties.  In addition, each year when a tree and/or lawn care provider renews their business license they are required to sign a Special Provisions Form that highlights key information in the ordinance as well [as] how to access our ordinance.  As a result, there has been a significant decrease in this practice.

Please provide any additional information on your tree ordinance or tree program.

As a Tree City USA for 31 consecutive years, the City of Valdosta strives to find balance within our urban environment through planning, creative thinking, conservation, management, and partnerships.  All communities are faced with challenges and differences of opinions, but it is how you handle those situations and your ability to find common ground [that allows us to] move forward and not backward.  By having ordinances in place and supportive leadership, staff is able to work with developers and property owners to preserve where we can, plant where needed, and maintain for future generations.


cropped-toolbox-latest.jpgTREE ORDINANCE TOOLBOX

The City of Valdosta tree ordinance sections that address tree topping are reproduced below.

 

 

From Section 328-26. Tree Topping

No tree topping or roundovering shall be allowed on new and existing developments, city rights-of-way, city lands, or non-residential properties. Trees which have been topped as defined in Section 106-1 (“Definitions”) must be replaced with the replacement trees pursuant to the replacement requirements referenced in Section 328-16 herein.

From Section 328-36. Violations and Penalties

For crepe myrtle topping ONLY, one warning will be issued to the violator for the first violation, then all subsequent violations will be treated as listed above for the First, Second, Third or Subsequent Offenses. A violator will only receive one warning, regardless of the months or years that have passed between the warning and the next violation.


 

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