Kirkwood’s Champion White Oak Unable to be Saved from Developers (UPDATE 1)


trees cut(APN) ATLANTA — The three hundred years-old Champion White Oak was the first tree, of forty healthy trees, to be cut down last week at 145 Norwood Avenue in the eclectic Kirkwood community to make room for eleven new homes, on Thursday, October 15, 2015.


A miracle did not happen in time to save the Champion White Oak, but new information may save some of the other trees.


Some older residents and neighbors have reported that the site was once the home of a church and cemetery.


Underneath the canopy of these old white oaks, DeKalb County pioneer families may be buried.


“They need to do a ground penetration over the whole site to make sure there are not graves there before more destruction occurs,” John Waits, a historian and President of Flat Rock Archives, told Atlanta Progressive News.


“Some of the elderly people said there was a cemetery there and when we pulled up a 1928 map it shows a dirt driveway going to where they said a cemetery was,” Waits told APN.


Meanwhile, the major lesson learned from this unfolding drama is that the City of Atlanta’s current tree ordinance does not truly protect historic species of trees, let alone any tree.


All a developer has to do is pay a small fine to cut all the trees down and make a larger profit at the expense of the trees, community, and City.


In front of what could have been a potential educational nature park, friends and neighbors gathered, as a community, to mourn the loss of an irreplaceable natural resource: a resource that charged nothing to absorb the rainwater, to serve as a buffer for noise, and to clean the air so everyone, including children, can breathe better.


In their own way, each person explained some of the reasons why they are upset by this loss.


“The Champion White Oak was valued by Neil Norton, an arborist, at 80,000 dollars and the City of Atlanta sold all forty of the trees for eleven thousand dollars.  This is why Atlanta Protects Trees (APT) has formed,” Melanie Bass Pollard, Director of APT, said.


“The property was purchased for under 700,000 dollars and the developer will sell to homebuilders for approximately 2.2 million.  The fines for taking all the trees down is between ten to eleven thousand dollars,” Katheryn Kolb, an Eastlake neighbor, told APN.


According to many residents, that destruction was not necessary because there were other options, as reported by APN.


“I’m for urban development, but at the same time the developer has a responsibility to maintain the integrity of the area they are developing,” Wesley Hoffman, a Kirkwood resident, told APN.


Across the street from the site another resident said he was okay with the development, but was unaware and disappointed that all the trees would be cut down.


“Atlanta is the city of trees but we are losing the trees faster than anyone realizes.  This is a larger issue for the whole city.  We need to become aware of what is around us, what happens five miles from us, and connect to people who care about trees,” Theresa Cromeans, a Morningside Hills resident, said.


APN tried to interview a person who appeared to be in a position of authority on the property.   The interview was rejected with hostile threats of arrest.




CORRECTION: The original version of this story erroneously reported that the developer purchased the property for 70,000 dollars; however, the story has been corrected to reflect the amount was approximately 700,000 dollars.


  • “ Only after the last tree has been cut down, Only after the last river has been poisoned, Only after the last fish has been caught, Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.” – Cree Proverb

  • Again I’ll ask, and again I suspect my question will be ignored. Why do you keep referring to the permit fee the city charges for removing trees as a fine? A fine is what you get when you are being punished (like a traffic ticket fine) for doing something against the law (like speeding.) I haven’t seen anything to indicate that this developer has done anything illegal. If you want your position to be taken seriously, it is best not to misrepresent information.

    • Dan, Just saw your post. To answer your question, Thrive Homes, in charge of both the destruction, clearing and build, was charged with multiple Tree Violations. (1) was for failure to have protective fencing up around to-be-preserved trees and (2) removal of 2 trees that were to be preserved. The fine was $3,000. The illegally removed trees would have helped provide green space in an otherwise, denuded property for new and surrounding homes. The builder was also cited again this week for, again, failing to install fencing around a 42″ DBH tree on the Delano side. This “failure” is commonly seen on sites all over Atlanta. Once the damage is done (soil compression is highly destructive to root systems) the tree may die with the builder no longer has to work around the obstacle. Thrive has been fined multiple times in the past. We have observed that many builders will also sod or mulch over the bobcat tracks of CRZ soil compaction leaving the bordering residents and/or new home owners saddled with the bill of removal- often in the 10’s of $1,000’s. And removal of a tree isn’t always the final cost. Collapse of older root systems, shade removal to understory plants, increased watering, systemic root treatment are just a few of the costs that can be attributed to “failure to install CRZ fencing” around trees. Keep in mind that it takes 2 mature trees for one person to breathe healthy air. Once a site is denuded of mature trees and large house footprints coupled with 2-3x impervious surfaces, it’s ecologically impossible for a specimen tree to reach the mature, healthy size that the 145 Norwood White Oaks had achieved through previous careful stewardship. Therefore, the new homes on 145 Norwood will have a high carbon footprint in perpetuity.

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