County Disfavors Bill To Retain Forestation

March 27, 1991|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

ANNAPOLIS — Neil Ridgely looks at development plans in the pipeline for Carroll and envisions forests disappearing.

"We're reaching a point of desperation," said Ridgely, the county's landscaping plans reviewer. "Wedon't have too many trees to begin with, and we have big projects planned for housing and golf courses in areas that are forested. There's going to be big-time forestry loss."

Ridgely favors the forest conservation bill that passed the Senate and is being considered in the House. But he emphasizes that his strong support of the measure requiring developers to replace some of the forested areas they clear reflects his opinion, and not county government's.

In fact, the County Commissioners generally oppose the bill -- with President Donald I. Dell the leading detractor -- sayingit intrudes on private property rights and imposes on local governments, which would be required to develop forest conservation programs.

"I'm in favor of reforestation, but it can be taken too far," said Commissioner Julia W. Gouge.

Several county agencies have expressed concerns about the bill's technical aspects and potential effects.

Assistant Planning Director K. Marlene Conaway said it is uncertain how reforestation would affect the county Master Plan, designed to concentrate growth in developed areas and preserve farmland. Reforestation requirements could conflict with those goals, she said.

"There's no impact statement,"said Conaway. "We know it will help trees, but we're not sure about other areas."

Delegate Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Carroll, Baltimore, says county officials sound like a broken record, issuing the same comments about other state-initiated environmental-protection and growth-management programs. Carroll's Master Plan has not been effectively implemented anyway, he said.

"Our job is to protect the environment," he said. "If local officials don't doit, we have no choice."

LaMotte and Delegate Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard, are on the House committee which will vote on the bill.

Elliott says the bill and other similar state land-use initiatives constitute a "taking of land."

"It endangers the constitutional rights of people to own land and do what they want with it," he said.

Elliott said local governments should develop their own laws or ordinances if they are concerned about the loss of forests.

Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore, voted for the bill, after amending it to make it less demanding on individual lot owners who wantto build a home. "It will hold developers more accountable and responsible," he said.

A similar bill was killed last year by politicalmaneuvering on the last day of the session.

The bill would require developers planning construction on tracts greater than 40,000 square feet -- less than one acre -- to submit an evaluation of vegetation and a forest conservation plan.

The state Office of Planning says Carroll could lose up to 27,725 of its 52,890 forested acres to development by the year 2020 under present land-use practices.

Trees help stabilize soil, control surface water runoff, cool and purify the air, enhance wildlife and aquatic habitats and improve the quality of life in communities.

"We need trees where the people are," saidRidgely. "We need shade and fresh air. That's what we don't have. We're getting barren subdivisions here."

Little can be done to save forests jeopardized under subdivision plans already submitted, other than pleading with developers to spare as many trees as possible, said Ridgely. The bill would provide the county increased powers to regulate forest conservation by 1993, the deadline for local programs to be implemented.

The extent of reforestation would vary, depending upon the type of development and amount of forest cleared. If on-sitereplacement is not possible, developers would contribute to a forestconservation fund.

Ridgely says the only way to ensure developersstrive to conserve or replace forests is by law.

"So many developers are inclined to do the usual -- massive grading. It's the modus operandi," said Ridgely. "They're not about to change if they don't have to.

"I don't think this will cost developers. . . . They'll find a way to work with it and still build as many homes."

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