Environmental panel to recommend permitting partial payment of forest bonds

January 26, 1995|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

Developers may pay partial bonds before each phase of a subdivision is built to meet tree planting requirements without harming the environment, the county's environmental oversight board concluded yesterday.

The Environmental Affairs Advisory Board will recommend to the county commissioners that when a subdivision is built in phases, the developer should be permitted to post forest conservation performance bonds for each phase as it is scheduled for construction.

The bonds help guarantee the developer will plant trees as required or cover tree planting costs in case of bankruptcy.

Richard Hull, president of a local surveying and civil engineering service, said developers would plant trees at other locations to get money released faster if bond was posted for the entire development up front. Builders may replace forest land on other property if they cannot reasonably do so on the parcel being developed, the ordinance says.

Mr. Hull noted that in other aspects of subdivision development the county permits developers to build facilities, such as roads, in phases.

But environmental board member Carol Rabenhorst said full bonding would help guarantee homebuyers that the amenities promised by real estate agents are provided.

"I want to know that the developer is not going to go bankrupt and then another one comes in and he has a different plan and I never get my nature trail and my trees," she said.

Board member Georgia S. Hoff saw the issue as, "What is the impact that is negative to the environment?"

None, replied Neil Ridgely, county landscape and forest conservation manager.

Mr. Ridgely, who will leave his post next week to take a job in the private sector, said that phased bonds will require phased "clocks," because bonds are not released until the seedlings have established themselves and at least 75 percent have survived. The county doesn't have enough inspectors to check phased tree plantings, he said.

"That's irrelevant," said J. Michael Evans, director of general services, who recently became Mr. Ridgely's supervisor when the commissioners placed the Office of Environmental Services under the general services department. Mr. Evans proposed the change to phased bonding.

The commissioners will have to amend the forest conservation ordinance to make the change, in the opinion of Mary Jo Murphy, assistant county attorney. She said that because the issue isn't mentioned in the ordinance, it must be modified to change established practice.

Mr. Hull said the impact became apparent recently because subdivisions in process when the forest conservation ordinance was adopted were exempt.

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