To the county commissioners from a small group of developers: You'renot out of the woods yet with a proposed forest conservation program.
Concerned about the restrictiveness of Carroll's proposal and the accuracy of the staff's comparisons between the county and the state programs, a Manchester developer and local Home Builders Association officials sought to air some differences to the commissioners Monday.
However, some of the commissioners were not prepared to respond to those concerns. In addition, there was little time on the board's agenda to squeeze in lengthy discussion about the state-mandated program, which is intended to conserve forests and create new woodlands.
"They wanted time with all three commissioners," said Commissioner Elmer Lippy. "They wanted to justify their case. We just didn't have the time."
Lippy said that any inaccuracies in the staff's comparisons were unintentional.
In developing a forest conservation program, county proposals must be at least as stringent as the state's plan. County plans must be submitted to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for approval by April 30.
The law applies to any builder who will be disturbing about a quarter-acre or more of forest on a tract of about 1 acre or more. The developer would be required to gain approval of a forest-conservation plan, which could include replacing cleared trees, before obtaining other building permits.
County officials are still fine-tuning Carroll's draft. The county programconcentrates on retaining forests and avoids provisions requiring the creation of new forests.
The elimination of those provisions hasprompted objections from the Carroll chapter of the Home Builders Association of Maryland.
The state program requires that trees be planted on a percentage of a development tract, even where trees didn'tpreviously exist. The county plan doesn't contain that requirement.
"Our major problem with the county bill is that it scraps that philosophy altogether," said Thomas M. Ballentine of the homebuilders association. "The state program makes all landowners equal. Everybody is contributing to forest protection."
Martin K. P. Hill, presidentof Masonry Contracts Inc. of Manchester, agreed with that stance in a letter written to the commissioners Monday.
"If the county has asincere interest in preserving agricultural land, the county draft is counter to that interest," he wrote.
"Development of wooded tracts would be prohibitive, directing all development to clear land, farm land."
Ballentine said the state program requires clearing and reforestation to different degrees under various zoning classifications. The county plan would require trees to be replaced on a one-for-one basis.