Mayors oppose easing fines in forest ordinance

August 05, 1993|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

Carroll County mayors said yesterday they do not want the commissioners to weaken a section on fines in the county's forest conservation ordinance.

The commissioners have discussed changing the ordinance to say that the county "may" impose fines instead of "shall" impose fines.

But at the mayors' quarterly meeting with the commissioners yesterday at the County Office Building, several mayors said they don't want the law changed.

Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown said "shall" means the county will impose the fines.

"Shall" and "may" have different definitions, the mayor said. "God and

Moses straightened that out a long time ago.

"The ordinance you passed is the one we voted to accept," Mr. Brown added.

Commissioners Julia W. Gouge and Elmer C. Lippy said they have not decided to change the wording. Commissioner Donald I. Dell wants the change.

Mount Airy Mayor Gerald R. Johnson Jr. said he was upset to learn about the proposed change through newspaper articles.

"We do not want the change," he said.

Hampstead Mayor C. Clinton Becker agreed.

"I feel strongly the language is what we all agreed on," Mr. Becker said.

The commissioners adopted a forest conservation ordinance in November that is meant to preserve woodlands. The towns were given the option of adopting and enforcing their own ordinances, or adopting the county ordinance and letting county staff members enforce it.

The ordinance requires anyone who disturbs 25,000 square feet of land or more to replace felled trees and provide the county with data on existing woodlands.

Mayor Brown asked the commissioners whether they had made a decision about the change. Mrs. Gouge shook her head no.

Mr. Lippy said he had agreed to the change but is reconsidering.

"There's been such an outcry. I'm certainly going to reconsider my position," he said. "I like to say perception is reality, and the

public's per

ception is, we're watering down the ordinance."

Mr. Dell said, "My personal opinion is, 'shall' is too stringent." Changing "shall" to "may" would give the county more flexibility when imposing fines, he said.

Mr. Dell said he proposed the change because he thought the commissioners had agreed the ordinance would say "may" before they adopted it.

The ordinance is not helping the county attract new business, he said.

"We find we are impacting our businesses with a lot of regulations," Mr. Dell said.

Neil Ridgely, program manager of the county's Division of Landscape and Forest Conservation, said all Carroll towns have given the county permission to enforce the ordinance.

Five towns took an extra step and adopted a resolution that says they will abide by the county law, he said. New Windsor, Union Bridge and Sykesville have not adopted such a resolution, he said.

Mount Airy later modified the county ordinance as it affects that town, but gave the county permission to enforce it, Mr. Ridgely said.

Yesterday, New Windsor Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. said his town also is considering changing the ordinance as it would be enforced in his town.

"It's not going to be anything wild," Mr. Gullo said.

He said he would like developers to be able to give money to an existing town tree committee, which is not allowed by the county law.

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