Buckhead resident Sylvia Williams was shocked last month when she discovered the tree canopy along West Paces Ferry Road by East Andrews Drive was torn down to make way for a construction project.
Birmingham, Ala.-based Regions Bank is building a new branch at the intersection and removed numerous trees in the process. Regions bought the land more than a year ago from Houston-based developer Camden Property Trust, which is building an apartment complex on East Andrews Drive.
“They first knocked down a chunk of it and left a line of trees along West Paces and now the line of trees along West Paces is just completely gone,” said Williams, who lives less than a half-mile from the site. “It’s just sad. There are so many cars coming and going down West Paces. … You’ve got nothing to suck up the pollution.”
Mercy Sandberg-Wright, who lives in the Tuxedo Park neighborhood nearby, said she drives by the corner every day.
“A lot of people in the neighborhood are very upset about how this has been handled,” she said. “It’s such an eyesore.”
Said Buckhead resident Tim Sheehan, “Naturally everybody’s upset over the clear-cutting of the property. … They took down 100-year-old oak trees. It’s crazy.”
He lives on Valley Road close to the site and said he is even more concerned about a planned right-out exit for the bank, which he believes will cause a “safety hazard on an already overburdened artery on West Paces Ferry.”
Regions spokeswoman Evelyn Mitchell said the trees were removed from the property as a result of the project’s site design.
“The location of the building on the property determines which trees must be considered for removal,” she said in an email. “Also, the [Special Public Interest-District 9] zoning requires sidewalks and landscape zones along both of the street frontages and requires all the trees along this street to be removed. The building placement was determined mainly by the SPI-9 zoning classification of the site. The SPI-9 classification establishes maximum setbacks lines — meaning the building cannot be placed behind the setback line — from both West Paces Ferry and East Andrews. This placed the building near the intersection of the two roads. So any of the trees in that area had to be removed to make way for the building.”
Mitchell said the site plan and tree removal were approved by the city of Atlanta on Dec. 19 and the trees were taken down on or about Jan. 13.
“It is my understanding that no objection concerning the removal of the trees was filed with the city,” she said. “The approved plans include extensive landscaping, including the addition of grass, numerous trees and shrubs. Our intention is to create attractive and inviting space to serve our customers and support responsible development in the Buckhead area.”
Mitchell did not provide details on how many trees were removed, how many will be added or if the company was required to pay a fine for the tree removal. The bank is slated to open during the second half of this year.
In October about 50 residents upset with the bank’s plans for the branch protested its construction.