Kiss and cut?

July 05, 1994

Why don't the Carroll County commissioners drop all pretenses and admit they don't want to enforce the county's forest conservation ordinance? Judging from the comments by Donald I. Dell, Julia Gouge and Elmer C. Lippy about a Finksburg man's recent request to log his land, they view the law as a unpleasant nuisance that should be disregarded whenever possible.

Atlee Edrington sought a permit to cut the trees on his eight acres, but the county's Environmental Affairs Advisory Committee rejected his request because he refused to sign a required declaration of intent. The declaration is a promise by the property owner not to subdivide his land for seven years. If he decided to develop the land during that period, the tree-planting requirements of the ordinance would kick in and he would have to replace the trees cut down.

Both the state law and the county ordinance contain this provision as a means of preventing developers from circumventing the law.

Allowing people to log their land and then immediately develop it would undermine the intent of the law, which is to preserve trees and require developers who indiscriminately cut down trees to replace them.

Claiming that the declaration of intent violates his constitutional rights, Mr. Edrington is appealing to the commissioners to grant him a waiver to harvest without signing any agreement. Mr. Edrington believes his age -- 80 years -- entitles him to recover all the cash he can from his property. In effect, he wants special treatment.

All three commissioners have indicated they are sympathetic to his request. Mr. Dell, who has opposed this ordinance from the beginning, put it most bluntly: "Being a redneck, I think we should have constitutional rights to [harvest trees] without kissing some bureaucrat's butt."

Contrary to Mr. Dell's assertion, what stands between Mr. Edrington and his timber harvest is not a backside but a slip of paper. If the commissioners grant his wish, they'll open up a loophole so wide, they might as well junk the law. The commissioners would have to honor ever similar request. If they grant the waivers, the public will have to kiss the backsides of the county's top elected officials and not some faceless bureaucrat in order to denude the land.

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