Councilwoman proposes strict tree-preservation bill Proposed Harford tree-preservation law would be tougher than state's.

April 11, 1991|By Bruce Reid | Bruce Reid,Evening Sun Staff

A Harford County councilwoman has drafted a tree-preservation bill for the county that is more restrictive than a similar bill the Maryland General Assembly passed last week.

Councilwoman Theresa M. Pierno, D-District C, says her bill would take effect sooner than the state measure. It also would require builders to save more trees and replant twice as many trees as the state would require. As does the state bill, the Harford proposal would require trees to be planted on some tree-less development sites, such as old farm fields.

All the provisions of the state bill would not take effect until December 1992, if Gov. William Donald Schaefer signs the legislation, as expected. Pierno's bill, on the other hand, would become fully effective in December 1991.

Because different types of surveys were used over the past century, officials say they do not have reliable data on tree loss throughout Maryland. Officials still are trying to determine the amount of forest land added over many decades.

But if the current rate of cutting were to continue, the state would lose 331,000 more acres of forest land by 2020 -- roughly one-eighth of the current acreage, state officials say.

Besides offering aesthetic value, trees reduce erosion, filter pollutants and provide wildlife habitat.

The Harford council attempted a tree-preservation bill last year, but it was quickly withdrawn after developers and others said it needed more study. Pierno said her draft incorporates some changes requested by local builders, including one that allows them to take credit for "shade tree" planting in higher-density developments to partially satisfy replanting requirements.

Pierno has organized two workshops on the draft before introducing the bill in May. The workshops are scheduled for April 22 and 29 in the council chambers. Representatives of about 80 local builders, real estate sales people, community groups and others are to receive the draft this week.

"My hope is that the workshops will go well and we will be able to work out any differences," she said.

Council President Jeffrey D. Wilson, a Republican, said Harford officials should be careful not to enact a tree-preservation law that is tougher than the state's and that results in an unconstitutional "taking" of private land. "The dust does need to settle on the state bill," he said.

George Shehan, a Harford builder who is president of the Home Builders Association of Maryland, said his group worked hard to make the state bill reasonable, adding that many builders think it is too restrictive and confusing. Shehan said his group will be involved in trying to shape Pierno's bill.

Shehan said the state bill could mean replanting costs as high as about $17,000 for each acre of trees cut. But Sen. Gerald Winegrad, D-Anne Arundel, the state bill's chief advocate in the Senate, said the maximum a developer would have to pay to replant trees would be $4,300 an acre, although that could be doubled if the developer cut more trees than a certain number.

Developers also have claimed that the state bill will result in higher home-building costs, translating to higher prices. They cannot expect relief from local legislation, which must be at least as strong as the state bill.

Although supporters tout the state bill as the toughest of its kind in the nation, Pierno maintains it does not go far enough.

Both the state bill and Pierno's draft bill would require varying amounts of trees to be retained on development sites, depending on zoning; planting of trees to replace those cut; and the preparation of forest-management plans before building can begin.

Pierno's draft differs from the state bill in that it would require:

* More trees to be retained on certain building sites.

* A half-acre of trees to be replanted for each acre cut. The state bill requires a quarter-acre of trees to be replanted for each acre cut.

* Developers to post a bond to guarantee that the required amount of trees will be saved.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.