WESTMINSTER — The State Highway Administration was prepared to remove about 40 oldtrees to expand Westminster's historic East Main Street last year until the plan caught the attention of city residents and officials.
Through a cooperative effort, the state and Westminster governments and city activists came up with an alternative that will save most ofthe trees while accomplishing intended goals for city infrastructure.
That effort represents the flexibility, coordination and education that must take place between local governments and developers to avoid unnecessary removal of trees, said speakers and municipal officials at a "Development with Trees" seminar Friday.
About 90 government officials, architects, developers, planners and land surveyors attended the seminar at the Wakefield Valley Golf and Conference Center.
The seminar was co-sponsored by county government, Carroll Community College and the city. It coincided with the county's effort to develop a forest conservation ordinance to comply with state law.
Tennessee-based urban forester Steve Clark, a consultant who served as the keynote speaker, condensed the requirements of his complex job into simple terms: "I try to help developers build without killing everything," he said.
Developers include not only private contractors but also utilities, government agencies and individual landowners, hesaid.
Developers and government often rely on traditional methodsand regulations that are harmful to trees, Clark said. They may not realize that traditions can be modified for mutual benefit while keeping projects affordable, he said.
Several municipal officials agreed that regulations often are too restrictive and could hinder conservation efforts.
"The problem everyone has now is that things are inflexible," said Teresa Bamberger, Mount Airy town planner. Ordinances tend to be written very black and white."
Bamberger said she will suggest development-plan modifications to save more forest and other natural areas. To make it work, developers will have to revamp plans and the council will have to allow some variances, she said.
Westminster Councilwoman Rebecca Orenstein said some county and city ordinances, such as those setting standards for street widths, road setbacks and rights of way, should be re-evaluated to encourage developers to save trees and create "a more humane environment."
Developments "are not done to us as a community; they're done with us," she said.
Carroll is about 20 percent forested. Much of the development in the county takes place on former agricultural lands.
Clark said trees are important to the environment because they help cleanse the air, control erosion, improve water quality, provide wildlife habitatand cool temperatures for aquatic life.
Developers should be educated about the "physiology" of forests and construction activities should be planned carefully to avoid harming trees, he said.
"We need to wake up in America," Clark said. "We can damage the environment through poor stewardship and it will die, and so will you. You have to think about the next generation."