September 29, 1993

Carroll County's forest conservation ordinance has been in effect less than a year, but already developers and home builders would like nothing more than to gut it. To convince the commissioners the ordinance needs revision, they are whining that adhering to the law is costly and having an adverse impact on their business.

Ever attentive to the development community, the commissioners have scheduled a meeting in December to review the ordinance and amend it. The commissioners want to complete the changes to Carroll's ordinance before the General Assembly convenes in January.

Rather than rely on the word of developers, who have opposed the tree protection measure from its inception, the commissioners ought to see for themselves how it has worked in practice. They might be pleasantly surprised that several developers have found that they can work within its provisions and still build homes and roads.

Developers of Cable's Choice, for instance, a 100-unit project near Eldersburg, won approval for a plan that calls for the removal of 1.6 acres of the 4.25 acres of existing woodlands. They also plan to plant eight acres of woods along a trout stream to reduce runoff from the developed sections.

In another project, the proposed Roberts Mill Run IV development in Taneytown, although no woodlands existed to be preserved, thanks to the forest conservation ordinance 6.5 acres of urban woodlands will be created. Also, by clustering the houses, a considerable amount of open space will be added to an existing wetlands area.

And a small development of 21 lots called Warren Way, located near Deer Park and Bollinger roads outside Finksburg, will require the cutting of only one-quarter of an acre of the 25 acres of existing forest.

Ground has not been broken for any of these projects yet so the commissioners can't discern the real-life impact of the ordinance. However, should the commissioners want to see what developers do to woodlands without the ordinance, they should look at the Eagleview development outside Westminster. The land has been scraped bare of vegetation; it more closely resembles a strip mine than a subdivision.

If the proposed changes developers are seeking permit this kind of bulldozing, the commissioners would do well to ignore them and their pleadings.

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