County forest plan backed Commissioners favor Carroll law over state version

November 13, 1992|By Kerry O'Rourke and Greg Tasker | Kerry O'Rourke and Greg Tasker,Staff Writers

Bucking pressure from developers, the county commissioners yesterday unanimously voted to support a locally drafted law to preserve Carroll's forests.

The decision means that they have accepted the proposed ordinance in principle rather than scrapping it to consider the state law, something local developers had urged them to do.

Under Carroll's proposed law, anyone who disturbs 25,000 square feet or more of land would be required to draft a plan to replace any trees felled during development. It also would require the planting of trees where none previously existed under certain criteria in some zoning classifications, such as agriculture.

The commissioners must submit their proposal to the state by Dec. 31. If approved, the proposal would become law in January.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell, who reluctantly supported the county draft, said, "I would like to vote against either or both plans because this is being shoved down our throats by the state."

Local governments must adopt the state plan or develop one of their own that is at least as stringent. State officials already have given the county conditional approval of the local ordinance.

The commissioners voted yesterday after a brief discussion with staff about differences between the two proposals.

Martin K. P. Hill, a Manchester developer who has been the most visible opponent of the county law, and members of the committee that drafted it were among those who attended the meeting.

Earlier, only Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said that he supported the local law. The other commissioners said that they were undecided.

Mr. Hill, Carroll's largest developer, said yesterday that, even though he pushed for the county to adopt the state law, he was satisfied with the county law.

"What has finally evolved with the county plan is so similar, I don't have a problem with the county plan. It's night and day from what was originally proposed," he said.

County staffers determined that the county plan was more stringent than the state's in certain cases and less stringent in others.

For example, in the Parrish Park development in South Carroll, the county law would require developers to plant 3 acres of trees for 3 acres cleared during development.

Under that area's zoning classification -- half-acre residential lots -- the county would require 1 acre of trees to be planted for each acre cleared. The state requires only one quarter-acre to be planted for each acre cleared.

The Carroll ordinance would not apply to projects for which construction drawings have been accepted for approval by the county by Dec. 31.

Mr. Dell expressed several concerns with the county ordinance, including the inventorying of certain sizes of trees before development, off-site reforestation efforts and the effect the law might have on efforts to attract new businesses to Carroll.

Michelle Ostrander, assistant county attorney, said that the state and Carroll laws have the same thresholds for reforestation and aforestation in industrial and commercially zoned sites. Aforestation is planting trees where none exist.

After the vote, Mr. Dell expressed appreciation to Frank Grabowski, who chaired the committee that drafted the ordinance, to others for their help and to Mr. Hill for his input.

Although supporters of the county law raised concerns about Mr. Hill's influence, Mr. Dell said that he appreciated the Manchester developer's comments and added that Mr. Hill contributed "knowledge that none of us seemed to have."

"It's important in how we run the government. It's to the benefit of everyone," Mr. Dell said.

The commissioners and their staff conceded that the county law, once adopted and implemented, is likely to need fine-tuning.

"How soon after it's adopted can we make changes?" Commissioner Julia W. Gouge asked.

Mr. Lippy warned, "It's a complex issue. I submit that we don't flood this plan with a whole gamut of amendments."

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