Protect Carroll's woodlands CARROLL COUNTY

November 09, 1992

If the Carroll County commissioners are undecided about a proposed forest conservation measure, they ought to adopt the measure recommended by a citizen's committee. The group has written an ordinance that carries out the state mandate to protect woodlands and yet is responsive to the county's needs.

After the committee worked on the measure for 12 months, holding dozens of meetings and public hearings to work out an acceptable compromise measure, the commissioners are now on the verge of scrapping the group's work. Developers, led by Martin K. P. Hill, would like the county to adopt the state's model ordinance instead.

The reason is simple: Under the terms of the model ordinance, developers would have a cheap way to buy themselves out of woodlands preservation. The state law requires them to pay 10 cents a square foot -- $4,000 an acre -- for bulldozed woodlands. Adhering to the state law means that a developer could clear land without concern for existing tree growth and simply pass the cost onto home buyers.

Under the proposed county ordinance, developers would be required to submit detailed plans to preserve existing woodlands and build around trees. If they had to cut down trees, they would be required to replant. The number of replanted trees would depend on the acres of woodlands destroyed. Developers bristle at the idea that they might have to take into consideration the natural terrain and tree growth.

Carroll has very little natural tree cover -- about 23 percent of the county. The government's goal should be to preserve existing woodlands at all costs.

Developers are targeting the county's conservation lands -- which contain a lot of trees -- for development. Developers have a propensity to destroy woodlands; that appetite has to be curbed.

The county ordinance would lead developers to devise creative solutions when building in woodland areas. The additional costs are minimal; the benefits for the public and future generations are considerable.

The commissioners should consider that the forest conservation legislation that is best for developers is not best for the rest of the county's population.

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