Dell Wields Ax When Shears Might Do

March 29, 1994

Carroll Commissioner Donald I. Dell has never liked the county's forest conservation ordinance. During the drafting stages, he opposed most provisions and he cast the lone vote against adopting the law. Now, whenever publicized instances arise with developers or landowners complaining that compliance is burdensome, Mr. Dell renews his campaign to weaken the ordinance.

His latest outburst came when the county's Environmental Affairs Advisory Board refused to approve of Kibler Construction Co.'s request for a variance from the ordinance. Kibler wants to construct a 20,000-square-foot building on its 25-acre Finksburg parcel next to Liberty Reservoir.

Although the construction will only disturb about 1.4 acres, county officials are including the 25 acres in their calculations of how much forest must be protected and replanted. As a result, the county is requiring that about seven acres of existing trees be set aside in an easement, which would prevent them from being cut down as part of some future development. The company, in its variance, is asking to place an easement on about a half an acre of trees.

When the ordinance was drafted, no one expected the forest conservation measure to apply neatly in every case. Even the most ardent backers knew there would be circumstances where strict compliance would not make sense. That is the reason for the variance.

If Mr. Dell believes the county's requirement is too great, he can vote for the variance Kibler is requesting. If another commissioner agrees with Mr. Dell, then Kibler will receive its variance.

Rather than condemning the entire ordinance, Mr. Dell should step back and look at how it has operated to date. The fact that it has taken 15 months for the first appeal to be filed is ample evidence that the ordinance is working fine. Rather than having to deal with a slew of problems brought on by this complicated measure, the county's regulatory officials have been able to implement it rather smoothly. The ordinance probably could use some fine-tuning, but any changes should wait until it has been in effect for two years. Despite Mr. Dell's complaints, there is no compelling reason to immediately begin chopping down a law that seems to be working.

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