When Do I Need a Tree Removal Permit? And Who Handles That?

If you’re a first-time homeowner, live in a historic neighborhood, or just haven’t dealt with tree removal before, you may be wondering what legal responsibilities you have during the process. The experts at Premier Tree Services are here to break it down!

City of Atlanta 

Within the city of Atlanta, permits are required by the Tree Conservation Commission, a citizen board appointed by the Mayor and City Council Members. The mission of this board is to “assist in the protection, maintenance, and regeneration of the trees and other forest resources of Atlanta.” 

Operating under the Atlanta Tree Ordinance, the Tree Conservation Commission’s site for removal permits lists requirements for the following: 

Public Property

You need a permit to remove, destroy, or injure any tree on city-owned property, regardless of size. 

Private Property

You need a permit to remove, destroy, or injure any tree of 6 inches or greater diameter-at-breast-height (DBH) on private property. There are no exceptions, either by species or present condition. 

Dead and Dying Trees

You need a permit to remove dead and dying trees from private property. These permits can be obtained free of charge by contacting the Arborist Division.” 

The application for removal is available here. If you are unsure whether your tree (or your property) qualifies, we can help you through the permitting process. Though we won’t be able to guarantee your permit will be approved by the city, we can provide inspection, consultation, and advice. 

Outside of Atlanta 

If you’re considering tree removal outside Atlanta, we recommend you check in with your city or county government offices to determine whether or not a permit is necessary, and how requirements may differ from those for Atlanta. 

  • In Roswell, GA, for example, an application is required for trees larger than 3” in diameter. 
  • The City of Decatur also has a Tree Canopy Conservation Ordinance, under which “property owners in residential zoning districts are allowed to remove up to 3 healthy, protected trees during an 18 month period.” A permit still must be filed with the City, to help track removal and consider potential replanting.
  • Private single-property homeowners of Marietta, GA, are not required to have a permit for tree removal, though the City’s Code of Ordinances spells out several restrictions for commercial and multifamily properties. 
  • Forsyth County just recently revised its Tree Protection and Replacement Ordinance, though they do not require a permit if residential property owners are interested in removing a tree. 
  • Norcross, GA’s Code of Ordinances meanwhile clearly states that “No person, corporation or association shall remove or destroy any tree either on public or private property with a DBH of six inches or greater without having first obtained a tree removal permit from the Community Development Department.” 

There are several other areas we serve that may have different tree removal permit requirements. If you’re in a location not listed here (or are simply still scratching your head over how, when, where, and why you might need a permit), call us at 404.252.6448 or reach out to us online for inspection and advice.

Best Places in Georgia for Leaf-Peeping

Autumn is just a few weeks away. Time for flannels, turtlenecks, pumpkin-flavored everything, and, of course, the changing of both light and leaves. 

Though determining the exact dates for peak fall foliage in Georgia isn’t an exact science, on average you can expect them toward the end of October and early November, when warm sunny days are coupled with chilly (but not freezing) temperatures in the evening. 

Once that combination becomes consistent, strike out to these destinations to experience some striking fall color. 

Brasstown Bald 

Georgia’s tallest mountain might be at the top of your list this year. Brasstown Bald provides dramatic views at any season, but especially in the fall. The paved Summit Trail leads from the parking area to the Visitor’s Center, and is only a 0.6 mile hike, but is also very steep. The park provides shuttle service daily as an alternative. Can’t make the trip? Live streaming webcams are also available. 

Cloudland Canyon State Park 

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources dramatically describes this park as “Home to thousand-foot deep canyons, sandstone cliffs, wild caves, waterfalls, cascading creeks, dense woodland and abundant wildlife.” Providing multiple stunning overlooks, Cloudland Canyon is also equipped with opportunities for horseback riding, fishing, picnicking, mountain biking, disc golf, and several overnighting options. 

George L. Smith State Park 

For a more unusual fall foliage experience, enjoy the deep orange of cypress trees reflecting off this park’s blackwater pond. Pack a thermos of cider and visit the refurbished Parrish Mill and Pond, originally built in 1880 with a combination gristmill, sawmill, covered bridge and dam.

Tallulah Gorge State Park, Tallulah Falls 

Whether you’ve visited before or are brand-new to this state park, you’ll be glad you took in the waterfalls and scenery of what Explore Georgia describes as “One of the most spectacular canyons in the eastern U.S.” Permits are required to access the gorge floor, but a suspension bridge swings 80 feet above the river, and there are several other activities as well. 

Unicoi State Park & Lodge 

If you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or a little bit of both, Unicoi State Park and Lodge may fit the bill. With zip lines, hiking, paddle boarding, fly fishing, archery, scavenger hunts, plus a restaurant and lodge, you’ll find something for everyone — including breathtaking views of both foliage and falls. 

Victoria Bryant State Park 

Perhaps you’ve never heard of this secret Georgia gem, but if there’s a golfer in your family, you may want to add it to your list of fall destinations. The Highland Walk Golf Course is a beautiful—but challenging—course, while the stream and two hiking trail options will provide enjoyment for everyone else after tee time. 

No matter where you are in Georgia, you can experience a spectrum of color by looking out for red oaks, sweetgums, eastern redbuds and others right in your own backyard. And Georgia’s State Parks offer an online “Leaf Watch,” where others post their most fabulous fall finds. To care for your trees during this change of season — no matter their color — reach out to us online or give us a call at 404.252.6448. 

Can Trees Help With Yard Drainage? Yes, And Here’s How!

With summer showers out in full force (and another strong hurricane season upon us), you may be dealing with muddy yards, pooling water, flooding, or other drainage issues. Did you know trees can be a part of the solution?

Here’s how saplings (and stronger stands) can help soak up the sop. 

Fighting Flooding

Thanks to their penetrative roots (both large and small), trees create pockets (or “macropores”)  in the soil around and underneath them. This means more water travels more deeply into the ground rather than contributing to flooding by simply streaming over the surface. According to the Institute of Chartered Foresters, “In compacted soils, tree roots have been shown to improve infiltration by 153% compared with unplanted controls.” 

Even though just one tree can make a measurable difference, be mindful about what you’re planting. The Michigan State University Extension indicates that several trees popular in the Southeast may not withstand heavy flooding as well as others. Their complete list of trees in this category entails:

  • Sugar maple (Acer saccharum)
  • Yellow buckeye (Aesculus flava)
  • Shagbark hickory (Carya ovata)
  • Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis)
  • Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)
  • American beech (Fagus grandifolia)
  • Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus)
  • Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana)
  • Junipers (Juniperus spp.)
  • Black walnut (Juglans nigra)
  • Tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera)
  • Pines (Pinus spp.)
  • Red oak (Quercus rubra)
  • White oak (Quercus alba)
  • Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
  • American basswood (Tilia americana)

Relegating Runoff

Because urban areas have more “impenetrable” ground cover (such as highways, parking lots, and building complexes) they can be more prone to damaging floods. While a well-kept infrastructure of gutters, drains and sewer pipes is designed to move water to local streams, rivers, or lakes, heavy rain can overwhelm these systems. 

“Trees in urban areas can reduce these sudden waves . . . giving time for more water to infiltrate soils. This mitigates heavy rainfall by essentially spreading out the rain event, resulting in less and slower runoff,” Trees for Energy Conservation explains

Groups like Trees Atlanta are making efforts to not only plant more trees around the city, but to ensure the health of existing forests by removing invasive species and planting those that are more natively suited to the area and climate. 

Damage-Controlling Droplets 

Campaigns officer at 10:10 Climate Action, Emma Kemp, explained to the The Ecologist that “leaves intercept rainfall, slowing the rate that water flows into rivers and reducing the risk it’ll burst its banks.” As these drops trickle down the tree’s branches and trunk, some of that water also gets absorbed by the bark. 

Inevitably, a measurable amount of rainwater also remains on each leaf. “[A]nd when the sun comes out, that water evaporates without ever reaching the ground,” Beth Botts, staff writer for The Morton Arboretum told The Chicago Tribune

So from the very tops to their deepest depths, trees protect us from water damage in multiple ways. It’s why you’ll want to take good care of them during storm season — and why we want to help. Our specialists can also offer consultation on where else you might plant a few additional trees to improve water management. To discuss these options and more, call us at 404.252.6448 or reach out to us online.

Be a Georgia Tree Know-It-All: Southern Magnolia

Get to know Georgia’s beautiful array of trees and how you can take care of your own! Each month, we feature some of the most popular trees in the state, including the Devilwood tree, Butternut, and Two-Winged Silverbell tree

We are showcasing the Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora L.) — one of the South’s most beautiful staples! 


You may be surprised to learn that the Southern Magnolia is an evergreen. Its deep green, shiny, leathery leaves can range in length from five to ten inches. Despite its evergreen status, however, “If you can’t abide leaf drop, this isn’t the magnolia for you,” Southern Living warns, “because the leaves of M. grandiflora drop 365 days a year.”

While the Southern Magnolia normally reaches 50 feet in height, it can potentially grow up to 100 feet tall and 40 feet wide. 

Perhaps its most cherished characteristic, the magnolia’s fragrant blossoms are cup-shaped and eight inches in diameter. After their initial blossoming, these thick-petaled flowers open in the morning, then close in the evening for two to three days. This cycle continues (along with new blossoms) throughout the summer and into the fall. 

After the blooming season, Southern Magnolia’s flowers produce cone-like seedpods that contain the tree’s large red seeds.

Growing Conditions

The Southern Magnolia thrives in both full sun and partial shade. The Arbor Day Foundation recommends that it should receive a minimum of four hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day. 

In terms of soil quality and pest resistance, the Southern Magnolia is relatively flexible. “It grows well throughout Georgia, is widely adaptable to a variety of soils and has few pest problems,” the University of Georgia Extension confirms.

Once established, the Southern Magnolia can also be relatively drought-tolerant, but in the early stages of growth, they will need plenty of water. Rich, moist, well-drained soil will be ideal to help your Southern Magnolia thrive across hardiness zones 6 through 10. (Atlanta and North Georgia are in zone 7.)

Tree Care

A quick-growing tree, the Southern Magnolia should be pruned during the colder seasons, after blooming is complete. Dead, damaged or broken limbs need to be trimmed away to promote healthy growth.  

If you choose to handle pruning yourself, Garden Guides recommends making your cuts at the tree collar (the thickest section next to a joint shared with another limb) for maximum healing. For thicker, longer, or higher-up branches, we recommend bringing in a tree professional. 

In the northern areas of its hardiness range, the tree may require protection against winter winds and ice, which can cause branch breakage and bark damage. 

Signs of Distress

During dry spells, give your Southern Magnolia a thorough soaking, as prolonged drought can be a major stressor. Signs of water stress include wilting and drooping leaves at the top and center of the tree. An excessive amount of falling leaves and thinness throughout the tree could also suggest insufficient water. 

Verticillium wilt is another common issue in magnolias. The soil-borne fungus prevents nutrients from reaching the tree and causes branches to die off. Look for sudden wilting on one side of the tree, or browning along leaf edges. 

We want to help keep your majestic Southern Magnolias in good health throughout the year. For help with your trees’ pruning, trimming, or disease prevention care, reach out to us online or give us a call at 404.252.6448. 

Premier Tree Solutions Experts Featured on WSB Radio’s “Green and Growing” Program

Rafael Santiago, Arborist at Premier Tree Solutions

Premier Tree Solutions Founder, Jeff Roth, and Arborist, Rafael Santiago, had the pleasure of being recent guests on 95.5 WSB Radio’s “Green and Growing” program hosted by Ashley Frassca.

Jeff Roth, Founder of Premier Tree Solutions

The two will be regular guests moving forward, joining the program to discuss the art of arboriculture, landscaping, and all things tree care. Tune into 95.5 WSB Radio Saturdays from 6 to 9 AM to learn more!

Jeff and Rafael talking to Ashley Frassca, the host of 95.5 WSB Radio's "Green and Growing" program.

Need a helping hand with your trees? Contact us today by calling 404.252.6448 for a consultation. For emergencies, please call 404.569.8897.

Premier Tree Solutions Provides Service for President Jimmy Carter

President Jimmy Carter

While doing work in Andersonville, Georgia for the Secret Service and the National Park Service, Jeff and his Premier Tree Solutions team were called to serve President Jimmy Carter at his compound in Plains, Georgia.

Premier Tree Solutions removed a number of trees that fell on his house and property in the wake of Hurricane Michael, and were honored to provide services for such a president.

Looking for tree help? Contact Premier Tree Solutions today. We specialize in helping tree owners feel secure and help keep their landscapes safe. In addition to protecting trees from wind and floods and other natural disasters, we also do branch thinning and pruning, storm cleanup, tree removal, stump grinding, and more. Call 404.252.6448 for a consultation today, or in an emergency, 404.569.8897.