A 3-year-old program to replace trees lost to development along the county's waterfront has collected more than $560,000 from builders but hasn't planted a single tree.
The County Council created the Critical Areas Reforestation Fund in 1988 when it passed regulations limiting development within 1,000 feet of Anne Arundel's 420-mile-long shore. Since then, officials have been unable to find landowners willing to allow trees to be planted on their property.
But Councilwoman Diane Evans, R-Arnold, said she plans to introduce legislation next week that will allow the county to purchase woodlands or easements to protect mature forests from development.
"Obviously, if you can preserve the trees and not have them cut down, youare better off," Evans said.
The chief obstacle for the county has been a restriction permanently barring development on reforested sites, said Rodney Banks, a county planner who drafted the Critical Areas law. Ironically, the law, which protects the county's investment in new trees, makes opening land up to reforestation unattractive to landowners, he said, because it limits their options for future development.
The county is negotiating with neighborhood associations along the Magothy River and in South County to replant in common areas.The county also has hired a consultant to locate other reforesting sites.
The Severn River Association, which represents about 100 neighborhoods, grew impatient with county efforts and, in March, first proposed the changes being introduced by Evans.
Evans said SRA members approached her after they learned the council would have to approve any changes to the regulations.