After three months of debate, the County Council approved a bill Monday night that would allow money earmarked for planting trees to be used to buy woodlands and replant shoreline grass.
But council members said they would prefer that the Office of Planing and Zoning use the money for its original purpose -- planting trees along the shoreline -- before buying woodlands.
"I would hope they would continue their search for sites to planttrees as a top priority," said Councilwoman Maureen Lamb, D-Annapolis, who co-sponsored the bill proposed by Diane R. Evans, R-Arnold. The bill was the first piece of legislation proposed by Evans, who was elected last year.
The bill must be reviewed by the state CriticalAreas Commission, which may reject any part that doesn't meet state law.
Building trades groups opposed the bill because they said it will use developers' money to take away land they could develop, hitting the recession-battered industry twice.
The tree-planting moneyis collected from developers who build within 1,000 feet of tidal wetlands or the shoreline, known as critical areas. Developers must either replant trees or contribute to the fund.
The county has collected $720,000 in three years but hasn't planted any trees, because it hasn't found appropriate sites -- although it is close to deals with several landowners. However, the law has resulted in developers having spent an additional $549,000 to replant trees in areas they've cleared.
Legislative Planner Rodney Banks said the county is working on an easement to plant trees on an acre of land in Cape St. Claire, and seven other property owners have expressed interest.
Banks saidthe county should beging planting in October. He said the county hopes to keep the cost to $18,000 an acre, the rate charged developers who clear critical areas land.
Banks said the county administrationlikely will propose another critical areas bill this winter. State law requires the county to review its critical areas law every four years.
Anne Arundel's law was adopted Aug. 22, 1988, so the county has a year to review and fine-tune it.
In other action Monday night, the County Council:
* Approved County Executive Robert R. Neall's nominees to the county Property Tax Assessment Appeals Board by a 6-1 vote. The county must submit three names to Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who picks the board member.
The council defeated the same nominees -- R. Reynolds Wilson, Richard Weiss and Roy Mason -- two weeks ago, after Councilman George Bachman, D-Linthicum, opposed them because none was from North County. Neall proposed the nominees to replace Chairman Tom Dixon of Harmans, a 10-year board member. Bachman said he wanted Dixon reappointed or another North County resident nominated.
The administration asked the council to reconsider its decision, because the other members of the board are from North County. The council agreed, and this time, Bachman was the only council memberin opposition.
* Set a public hearing for Aug. 16 on a bill that would crack down on controversial massage parlors.
The nine-page bill, introduced by Bachman Monday night, was spawned by controversy over two North County massage parlors, where police said they saw female masseuses manually stimulating male clients. That activity is not covered under solicitation laws, so police could not take action.
Both massage parlors have since been closed for zoning violations.
Bachman's bill would make it illegal for masseuses to touch "erogenous areas," specifically, the breasts, genitals and anal area. The bill requires clients to cover these parts of the body during the massage and prohibits masseuses from working on members of the opposite sex.
The legislation also requires masseuses and managers of massage operations to be licensed by the Department of Inspections and Permits and to have at least 100 hours of training from a nationally recognized institution. But the bill exempts medical professionals, including massage technicians with more than 500 hours of training.