County landscaper Neil Ridgely believes the committee writing a forest conservation ordinance has come up with a draft that could become a model for the state.
The county's proposed ordinance, due beforestate officials on Thursday, is more stringent than the state's. Carroll's ordinance emphasizes forest conservation and, among other things, makes the review process "less contentious," Ridgely said.
"If (the ordinance) stays intact between now and December, I believe we will have a good ordinance," Ridgely said. "We have a long wayto go between now and then. The development community and some otherfolks will try to make some changes to it.
"There's a very large need for continued public support," he added.
Frank Grabowski, chair of the committee, said that although the forest conservation ordinance affects Carroll citizens environmentally and aesthetically, few are familiar with the draft and are aware of the struggle that ensuedduring the past nine months.
"Carroll is really just a bedroom community," Grabowski said. "People work elsewhere and come home here but don't always pay attention to what's going in their community."
During the drafting process, the ordinance came under fire from developers who balked at reforestation requirements and proposed fees. The commissioners then appointed Tom Ballentine of the Home Builders Association of Maryland to the committee.
"The impact this has on the average citizen of Carroll County is that it maintains the quality of life that most people moved to Carroll County for," Grabowski said.
He said the forest conservation ordinance will maintain that quality of life to a greater extent than the state's but "to a much lesser extent than what we had hoped."
Generally, the ordinance attempts to preserve Carroll's existing but fragmented forests. About 25 percent of the county is forested -- the lowest in the state, Grabowskisaid.
Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said he was pleased with the ordinance and expected its more stringent requirements to meet the state's approval.
In seeking compromises, Lippy said the commissionerswere concerned about the cost impact on future home buyers.
"Affordable housing in Carroll is an issue," Lippy said. "We've been accused of listening too much to developers, but I think people will see that's not the case in this ordinance."
Compromises were reached inthree areas:
* The fee developers will pay if they cannot, for whatever reasons, reforest. In lieu of planting trees, developers will pay the county 50 cents per square foot. The committee sought 88 cents. The state requires 10 cents per square foot.
* Requirements needed to draw reforestation plans were
broadened to include licensedlandscape architects and others with comparable education and experience. The committee wanted to limit that position to licensed foresters.
* The amount of forest that can be cleared before reforestation is required has been set at 25,000 square feet. The committee sought 15,000 square feet; the state requires 40,000 square feet.
"As the draft exists to date, it will allow more removal of forest than wehad hoped we could get by with," Grabowski said. "We now allow for over a half-acre of clearing without any reforestation whatsoever. I think (the commissioners) have made it easier for developers opting toallow the county to do the reforestation."