“Replantings are done on public space and that’s not always ideal,” she said.
Saplings planted along city streets or parks can grow into nuisance trees that might have to be removed. And the city can’t just pack parks with new tree groves without losing public space.
Benfield said the ordinance change would allow the city to use some of the recompense fees to buy up parcels with trees already on them, preserving them from future development. She said the city would only deal willing sellers — “opportunistic purchases,” she called them.
She said she is coordinating the change in the ordinance with local conservation groups such as Trees Atlanta and the Georgia Conservancy.
The change in the ordinance could come as a relief to activists worried that an increase in in-town redevelopment is threatening the city's urban forest. Across the metro area, neighborhood groups are fighting to preserve forested lots from a spike in residential development. Most of the time they lose.