Developers Say Money Doesn't Grow On Tree Proposal

April 14, 1991|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

Harford developers say they fear the price of new homes would rise sharply if a proposal for a county tree preservation law is passed by the County Council.

Last week, Council Member Theresa M. Pierno, D-District C, circulated a draft of a bill she's sponsored that would, among other requirements, make developers plant new trees to replace ones they cut down. Her proposal is stronger than a state bill justpassed.

George Shehan, president of the Maryland Home Builders Association and a partner in Bel Air-based American Landmarks Homes Inc., said developers already will be hard-hit financially when a similar state bill, passed in the recent General Assembly session, takes effect in December 1992.

"If it's stricter than the state bill, and if it's passed, it could skyrocket the cost of doing business in Harford County," Shehan said.

Shehan said he estimates the state bill will result in developers paying about $17,000 an acre to plant nursery-raised trees to replace trees cut down on a development site.

"If you're asking who loses, the ultimate loser is the person who buys the house and the person whose land value will depreciate because only a certain amount can be developed," said Shehan.

The average cost of a home in Harford County is $110,000, Shehan said. Adding the cost of replacing trees -- between $95 to $100 each -- to homebuyers could quickly put house prices above an affordable range, he said.

"I can'treally speculate on the effects because I haven't read the bill yet," Shehan said. "But you can't sit around with legislation that is oblivious to people's need to find affordable housing."

Public workshops on Pierno's proposal have been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. April 22 and April 29 in the County Council chambers in the lower level of thecounty courthouse. Pierno said she believes a county law is needed in addition to a state law.

The state bill, if signed into law by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, won't take effect for two years. Pierno said she will propose that the bill's requirements be phased in untilbeing effective by December.

Pierno said her bill would require 30 percent tree cover. The state law calls for a 15 percent tree coveron developed land.

Under Pierno's proposal, a developer building on 40,000 square feet or larger would have to submit a forest conservation plan to the Department of Planning and Zoning when applying forpermits.

The proposal also would require in various zoning categories a minimum percentage of trees that remain on properties. The bill also would establish the ratio at which developers must replace trees that have been cut down, or how many trees must be added on the site.

For example, on land with less than a 15 percent tree cover prior to development, Pierno's bill would require a developer to plant enough new trees so that 15 percent of the land had trees on it.

Under the Pierno proposal, the percentage of forest cover required

on land would be determined by the purpose for which a site is to be developed. The proposal includes requiring:

* A 40 percent forest cover on land used for residential development at a density less thanor equal to one dwelling per acre and more than one dwelling per five acres.

* A 30 percent forest cover on land used for residential development at a density of more than one dwelling per acre.

* A 15 percent forest cover on land used for retail or industrial development.

To enforce the new tree preservation regulations, Pierno's bill calls for civil and criminal penalties. Civil penalties include a fine of $1,000 a day for violating the law and a fine of 45 cents persquare foot if the developer violates the forest conservation plan approved by the planning and zoning department. Violation of the law would also be a misdemeanor with a fine of $1,000 or six months in jail, or both.


* Land zoned for residential development at a density less than or equal to one dwelling per acre and more than one dwelling per five acres must have a 40 percent tree cover.

* Land zoned for residential development at a density ofmore than one dwelling per acre must have a 30 percent tree cover.

* Land used for retail or industrial development must have a 15 percent tree cover.

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