WESTMINSTER -- A subcommittee writing a Carroll forest conservation ordinance wants to keep a proposed fee on developers who don't replace trees they cut down.
Members of the county's Forest Conservation Subcommittee said Wednesday that they will continue to support the local fee to deal with situations where developers feel that replacing trees or planting them on new ground is not feasible.
The subcommittee, a branch of the Environmental Affairs Advisory Board, said the proposed local fee -- 50 cents for each square foot of land cleared -- would guarantee that trees get replanted elsewhere after ground is cleared for development.
If Carroll has no fee, the developer who doesn't want to replace trees can go to the state and pay a fee in lieu of replanting. But Frank Grabowski, the subcommittee chairman, was concerned that fees paid to the state might not be used to finance replacing trees in Carroll. And if the state doesn't get around the replanting, it would be obliged to return the money to the developer.
Neil Ridgely, program manager for landscaping and forest conservation, said developers get so tangled up in the state's process that they would eventually feel it is less frustrating to plant the trees.
But Tom Ballantine, who represents the Home Builder's Association on the subcommittee, urged the other panel members to deal with the issue more directly.
The seven-member panel, which was considering changes to the fourth draft of the proposal, also decided to petition the state to reduce the 20 percent minimum forest threshold to 5 percent for business and commercial land use.
Subcommittee members said they felt that forcing businesses to plant trees on such a large portion of their property would discourage development in the county.
Mr. Ballantine said residential areas would be similarly affected by the high forest threshold, but other subcommittee members disagreed.
The subcommittee accepted the addition of a section detailing the forestation of agricultural districts as a way to protect heavily-farmed areas in the county.
The proposed ordinance would allow agricultural use of up to 15,000 square feet of forested land without penalty. It would force developers to replace trees in a 1-to-1 ratio when more than 15,000 square feet -- but less than 20,000 square feet -- of forested land is cleared.
When a developer clears more than 20,000 square feet of forest, the ordinance would require replacement of trees at a 2-to-1 ratio.