Neighbors see threat in landowner's logging plan

Wariness of growth fuels worry in rural community

Harwood

May 03, 2004|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

Harwood hasn't changed much in the 20 years since Hugh Tornabene took out a compass and marked the south Anne Arundel County community as a good place to build his log cabin.

Horse barns dot the tree-lined roads with driveway entrances, and street names such as Wayson are a reminder of the prominent families that have made their homes in this rural enclave near the South and West rivers. And even though Harwood Road has added some new houses recently, the woods are so thick that neighbors say they hardly notice.

But Harwood Road residents did take notice when local landowner Barbara Herold notified her neighbors that she was going to begin a logging operation on 178 acres she owns.

"Her excuse is for logging," said Tornabene, a Harwood resident and Bowie State University physics and astronomy professor. "But she's got development in mind."

County officials say Herold's permits only allow her to grade and harvest specific trees, and Herold says she has no plans to develop the property. But the presence of the machines that are building a road on Herold's land has been enough to stir up vocal neighbors in the close-knit community, who fret that subdivisions are slowly encroaching on their way of life.

Just up Route 2 from Harwood, the South River Colony development boasts about 1,000 new homes. A little farther north, several shopping centers, restaurants and congestion can be found in fast-growing Edgewater.

"A large number of people who live in South County would prefer no changes to their neighborhood," said County Councilman Edward R. Reilly, a Crofton Republican.

But, he added, "People do have property rights. And if they obtain a permit from the county, they can do what they want."

Property rights

Herold, who lives in Arnold, has zoning that allows her to build one house per 20 acres. She said she intends to give each of her children a lot on her property someday. And although she has spoken out against the county's plans to tighten the reins on family conveyance practices, Herold said she does not know why Tornabene is questioning her intentions.

"It's none of his business what I do with my property. I own it," she said.

Recently, South County residents were riled when a man built an equestrian barn for his 50 horses, which stuck out in a residential neighborhood. But, Reilly said, the man had permission to build it.

County spokeswoman Pam Jordan said people often assume that laying down logging infrastructure - roads, bridges and paths - is a precursor to building a subdivision.

Recently, Jordan said, residents in the South County community of Churchton expressed concerns when a neighbor applied for a logging permit. They feared he might apply for a subdivision, which he did shortly after logging began.

But Jordan said that subdivision hasn't been approved, and that most landowners who seek permits simply want to make extra money from the timber on their property. If landowners want to build subdivisions, she said, they have to undergo the same review for approval as they would if they didn't have the roads built.

"The perception is, you come in for your logging permit, then come back later and don't have to follow the rules of the subdivision, but that is not true," Jordan said.

Skepticism

Residents also might be skeptical because logging in Anne Arundel County is rare. The county issues about 10 permits each year, most of them in rural South County, said Jim Johnson, county environmental engineer.

"Neighbors don't understand it, I think, and yes, we do get some complaints. There's just a general fear that too much of the forest will be cut," Johnson said. "We try to explain to them that they're harvesting the timber in a manner that's consistent with sound forestry practice."

Jordan said Herold's plan is not drastic, and that it calls for her to leave 60 percent of the trees in place. That should leave plenty of trees for the foxes, herons and hawks that neighbors say they often spot near her land.

Tornabene, however, remains concerned. He has a file full of Herold's plans and maps, and he's keeping an eye on the road construction. He worries that the permit giving Herold access from the north side of the property and the one letting her build a steel bridge over Stocketts Run means that development is coming.

No matter where the property lines are, no matter what the county says, Tornabene looks at the possibilities and can't help but worry.

"You don't own the river," he said. "You just look after it so people can enjoy it forever, and that's what I'm trying to do here."

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.