Softening of forest conservation law rejected Change was sought in penalty section

August 10, 1993|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

In the wake of pressure from town officials, the Carroll commissioners voted yesterday against a measure that critics had charged would undermine the penalty section of the county's forest conservation law.

On a 2-1 vote, the commissioners killed an amendment that would have changed "shall be assessed a penalty" to "may be assessed a penalty."

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said the public perceived the proposed change as an attempt to weaken the law, which was adopted last year with the goal of preserving the county's fragmented forests.

The commissioners initially said the change was grammatical and was needed to clarify the law.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell voted for the amendment.

"I'm basing my concerns on what I thought we were adopting," Mr. Dell said, referring to an agreement the commissioners had made in adopting the ordinance last fall.

But Mr. Lippy said that though the commissioners had verbally agreed to change the language, they had never formally voted on the issue.

Westminster and Mount Airy officials opposed the change, saying it would make the law too lenient.

County Attorney Charles W. "Chuck" Thompson Jr. said the current language would make penalties mandatory.

"We were very comfortable with the law, and the people of Westminster were very comfortable with the law," said Rebecca Orenstein, a Westminster city councilwoman who urged the commissioners not to change the ordinance.

"There is now this perception that the [amendment] will weaken the law."

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

The law provides for a fine of 30 cents per square foot of the area disturbed by development. The county may collect an additional $1,000 fine.

Carroll has levied only one fine for a violation of the forest conservation law. The county fined Stauffer Funeral Homes in Mount Airy $3,649 for removing several large trees without providing the county with data on the trees and other ground cover.

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