Profits Over Trees in Kirkwood, as Ancient Trees to be Cut Down


tree2(APN) ATLANTA — An ancient forest of over forty healthy trees, including six white oaks from 150 to 300 years old, are scheduled to be cut down for eleven new homes in the Kirkwood neighborhood.


The nutrient-rich old growth topsoil has already been bulldozed up and next the trees will be cut down, barring a miracle.


The developer, Reid Knox, has no plans to save any of the trees, not even one very old and large white oak that is listed with Trees Atlanta’s Champion Tree database.


As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, the Champion White Oak is the largest in the county with some estimates putting the tree around 300 years old.


White Oak is a specific type of oak tree.  Replanting new trees on the 2.5 acre site cannot replace those white oaks because they grow very slowly and can live up to 800 years.


The Kirkwood White Oaks have survived tornadoes, and General William Tecumseh Sherman’s march through Atlanta in 1864, but they may not survive developers without stronger laws to protect large existing historic trees.


State Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) and State Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) spoke out in favor of stronger tree ordinance at a recent press conference to save the rare old white oaks.


The neighborhood is divided on what to do with the site and emotions run high on both sides.


A two week petition drive got over three hundred signatures and pledges of five thousand dollars to help create a nature education park on that site for future generations.


“We stopped collecting signatures because Councilmember Natalyn Archibong (District 5), who can outreach to parks, said that was enough for her to move forward,” Kathryn Kolb, an Eastlake neighbor with Atlanta Protects Trees, told APN.  Kolb lives approximately one mile from the site.


According to Kolb, the City of Atlanta is prepared to enter into a discussion with the developer to see what is possible, but the developer did not return their calls.


Atlanta Progressive News (APN) reached out to one pro-development resident who lives next to the property; however, he did not want to comment.


Opponents of the development point to the fact that the developer had options like using conservation zoning or building smaller houses on Norwood Avenue and saving the trees in the back of the property.


“They had a lot of options and the developer chose the most destructive option possible to maximize the square footage of the houses and completely remove the trees,” Kolb said.


As the value of real estate goes up in Atlanta’s intown neighborhoods like Kirkwood, developers just cut down large older trees and pay a fine, which they chalk it up to the cost of doing business.


Kirkwood is a very diverse community with small to medium size homes, with a few larger historic homes.  Currently, the area is going in the direction of gentrification and becoming more affluent.


“Homes need to coexist with the natural environment and they don’t have to take up every square inch of the property.  There is nothing wrong with living in a modest home, everything does not have to be oversized,” a long time Kirkwood resident who wants to remain anonymous, told APN.


“The developer pre-sold the lots on a contingency that the trees be cut down and that should be illegal… The developer is externalizing the resources of the community and City for a profit,” Melanie Bass Pollard, Director, Atlanta Protects Trees, told APN.


A proposed detention pond will be managed by a homeowner association (HOA).


“If the detention pond floods, all the homes that are downhill will have to go to court to claim damages,” Pollard said.


The true cost of losing so many trees includes stormwater management problems, heat island effects, and more respiratory and asthma problems, especially in children.


Trees clean the air, manage water runoff, improve the soil, provide shade, and reduce noise.


“Those trees are an irreplaceable public resource taken from the community and the City for personal profit by developers who don’t even live in Georgia,” Pollard said.




  • I live in Inman Park. I have a Cedar tree growing out of my front porch that the City refuses to let me take down…but they “OK” this? Our so-called tree ordinance clearly has different answers deoending on how much money someone has…..not what is needed.

  • Tragic. The spirits of the trees are gentle and greedy people take advantage of that. But the universe revolves in a circle and those people will suffer.

  • I wonder if the laws have changed then. Isn’t it true that you, me (citizen, homeowner) can be fined for disturbing or removing trees in our yards or communities? …. Unless the “Officials” have blessed this action.

    Old trees make for historical landmarks and create a lovely environment for residents who want shade, breezes, and a view of nature.

  • The developer is being fined as well. He’s just going to let the homeowners eat that cost in the cost of the houses.

  • These unique trees will never be replaced but the cookie-cutter homes built there will be outdated in 25 yrs and replaced in 35. Sad lack of foresight and sense of community

  • I have lived in East Lake for 30 years and it is so sad to see the amazing beauty of the gorgeous ancient oaks being destroyed by greedy developers. This neighborhood is sadly becoming overtaken by people who cherish their ridiculous day glo chemlawns more than trees. Thank you for covering this issue.

  • Neighborhoods have been successfully stopping this kind of development in the past few years. We recently did here in central DeKalb. Morningside is another example. Go after the property owner to interfere with the sale. Contact attorney Frank Jenkins in Atlanta. He helped us out.

  • Atlanta already has one of the toughest tree ordinances in the country. It can prove to be trouble for individual homeowners. However as this instance shows property developers with enough economic incentive can and will defeat it. I would like to understand how they accomplish this and what can be done to the tree ordinance to stop them without further disadvantaging homeowners. Anyone?
    Beyond legal maneuvering, what can be done to save these trees? What could be done to devalue the houses that Reid Knox plans to build and eventually sell? Bad publicity can be a deterrent to new homebuyers, lower the selling prices, and reduce Knox’s incentive for taking such radical action against the trees and against us.

    • You can organize neighbor hood set-In around the property. Make a huge stink about it. Bring in a witch doctor and let it be known that the people removing the trees will be cursed and their family’s cursed for generations.

  • Our in-town neighborhoods charm will immediately degrade by intentionally destroying the history and spirituality that these trees grace us with.

  • Those detention ponds never work as advertised. They usually aren’t maintained and don’t function properly. Tree removal inevitably results in greatly increased storm water runoff. There will be flooding and erosion, and even more tree loss from the erosion. Anyone downhill or downstream from this development should be extremely concerned.

  • Why don’t we start a petition against the developers and take it to the county? That will take care of bad publicity and can even get a court hearing.

  • last I checked (when I wanted to remove a half dead pine leaning into my house) the penalty was fine and possible jail time

    what is happening is terrible and it’s only going to make Kirkwood less desirable- the trees make the neoghborhood!

    The developers should have to do jail time per tree – that will stop them from blazing through atlantas beautiful natural history. – bastards

  • I would recommend starting a petition on – that can get this issue local, national and worldwide publicity and embarrass public officials if they don’t intervene to help stop the destruction of at least some of the trees.

    I don’t live in the area so would recommend it be started by neighbors for maximum effect.

  • I hate to see a loss of mature trees, but the developer followed all of the proper procedures to obtain permit to remove the trees. There are no fines. There are permit fees, just like with any construction project. Fines are punitive in nature, and calling them that is just inflammatory and misleading (although I suspect that was the point.) If you feel that the city’s tree ordinance is too lax, then work to make it stricter, but calling for people who follow the law to “do jail time” is ridiculous.

  • Absolutely not acceptable. This is not right on so many levels – I strongly oppose actions taking by too many of these developers without regard for the neighborhood!!!

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