Carroll's proposed forest conservation ordinance no longer requires developers who fail to replace cut-down trees to pay a fee for reforestation -- at least to the county.
The county commissioners removed the provision, which would have required developers to pay 50 cents for each square foot of land cleared, from the proposed ordinance last week.
"It was a recommendation made by staff," Commissioner President Donald I. Dell said about the decision. "It's one [thing] we wouldn't have to be dealing with. So it was reasonable to drop the in-lieu-of fee."
The ordinance, aimed at preserving Carroll's disappearing forests, will be the subject of two public workshops.
The first is at 7 p.m. Wednesday at South Carroll High School, and the second will be at 7 p.m. Sept. 29 at Westminster High School.
About 25 percent of the county is forested -- the lowest percentage in the state, according to Frank Grabowski, chairman of a subcommittee that drafted the proposed ordinance.
Under the revised proposal, a developer who doesn't want to replace trees can go to the state and pay 10 cents for each square foot of land cleared in lieu of replanting.
The money would be earmarked for reforestation efforts in Carroll.
The Forest Conservation Committee argued that requiring a local fee would guarantee that trees are replanted elsewhere after ground is cleared for development.
The committee also wanted to be able to deal directly with developers who feel that replacing trees or planting them on new ground is not feasible.
"We weren't sure how the system would handle passing on the in-lieu-of fee to the state," Mr. Grabowski said. "It may work satisfactorily. We weren't sure, and we didn't have time to find out the ins and outs bureaucratically."
Although the subcommittee had argued against removing the fee, Mr. Grabowski said he understood the commissioners' rationale.
Removing the fee, he said, "saves the county the chore of operating" another fund.
"It's another bureaucratic activity," he said.
The commissioners' decision, he added, also takes the county out of the reforestation business.
Developers, he said, will have to prove to the county and the state that reforestation on a tract is not feasible.
"We're hoping two levels of bureaucracy is a sufficient deterrent to the in-lieu-of fee," he said.
Neil Ridgely, program manager for landscaping and forest conservation, praised the board's action.
"I think it was a wise decision," Mr. Ridgely said. "In essence, we won't have one more fund to manage. Developers will have to make the decision not to remove forested areas or replace forested areas."
The proposed ordinance also requires that developers:
* Replace trees, one new one for each one cut, when between 15,000 and 20,000 square feet of forested land are cleared.
* Replace trees on a 2-to-1 ratio when more than than 20,000 square feet of forest are cleared.
A public hearing on the proposed ordinance will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 5 in the Westminster High School auditorium.