Seeing the forest and the trees CARROLL COUNTY

October 05, 1992

Carroll County's commissioners shouldn't pay too much attention to developers, homebuilders and real estate agents at tonight's hearing on the proposed forest conservation ordinance. They are likely to continue complaining that the measure will drive up the cost of building houses, and those higher costs will be passed on to buyers.

This same refrain was repeated years ago when sedimentation controls were imposed. Building sedimentation ponds and runoff barriers is now second nature, and the county's streams are in much better shape because of it. Similarly, the benefits of the forest conservation ordinance outweigh the developers' objections.

With only about one-quarter of its land in tree cover, Carroll needs an ordinance that will prevent further degradation of its forests. In its current form, the forest conservation measure fulfills the goals set forth in the state legislation without creating a complex regulatory structure and imposing burdensome costs developers. Along with their other plans, developers will now be required to submit forest conservation and restoration plans.

The primary thrust of the ordinance is to discourage developers from building in forests. Developers can avoid a great deal of expense by careful site planning and avoiding wooded areas.

If developers decide to destroy trees in order to build, they are going to have to replace them. Unlike other counties that allow developers to pay money into a fund in lieu of replacing felled trees, Carroll's ordinance calls for the developers to replace the trees they tear down. If the county had required the fee, most developers would have just paid it and leveled the trees. Requiring replanting involves more work and discourages developers from cutting them down.

The commissioners are going to have to pay close attention to the provisions that cover agricultural lands and afforestation. When farmers subdivide their farms into residential lots, they are going to have to plant trees. The measure's proponents want farmers to put the trees along stream beds to reduce soil and nutrient run off.

Passage of the ordinance should put an end to the creation of subdivisions where the largest trees are mere saplings. Developers may also discover that home buyers are happy to pay for houses surrounded by mature trees.

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