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The Aegis
Harford County

Harford Circuit Court grants temporary restraining order to halt Abingdon Woods tree clearing

A Harford County Circuit Court judge on Friday granted Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s request for a temporary restraining order to halt the deforestation of Abingdon Woods.

As a result, the developers of the Abingdon Business Park project – Harford Investors LLP and BTC III I-95 Logistics Center LLC— will temporarily not be able to clear trees from the 300-acre site.

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“We’re pleased with the decision,” Josh Kurtz, Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Maryland executive director, said in a statement. “This restraining order will ensure that should CBF receive an injunction and win this case on the merits, that there will still be trees to protect. …

“Forested land is a public resource that is protected by state law. Ensuring that the law was followed before more trees are cleared should be the minimum requirement before this project can proceed.”

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Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s request for a temporary restraining order to stop the tree clearing was granted after the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled last month that the nonprofit was allowed to appeal the forest conservation plan for the development of Abingdon Business Park.

The appeals court said a citizen can contest a construction project’s approved forest conservation plan regardless of whether overall project plans have been approved.

The ruling allows the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to have a court hearing to determine whether Harford County and the developers are abiding by the state Forest Conservation Act with the project’s forest conservation plan.

According to a news release, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation “maintains that the warehouse construction project’s Forest Conservation Plan was erroneously approved by Harford County and the plan fails to meet the law’s requirements to preserve contiguous forest and large specimen trees.”

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The temporary restraining order granted Friday will pause the tree clearing for up to 35 days or until a judge rules on the foundation’s request for a preliminary injunction. If the injunction is granted, the tree clearing would be halted until a ruling is made on the foundation’s forest conservation plan complaint.

Two petitions to stop the tree clearing were filed in July, before the appeals court ruling — one by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the other by Janet Hardy, of Abingdon, and Veronica Cassilly, of Darlington. Both petitions were denied by a Harford Circuit Court judge on Aug. 3. Judge Diane Adkins-Tobin found that the petitioners failed to provide sufficient evidence of how they would be harmed by the tree clearing, and that the developers had obtained the necessary permits legally.

According to Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s news release, the developers plan to clear about 219 acres from the site for the proposed warehouse project. The site is made up of five parcels, totaling around 326 acres.

“The restraining order is a positive sign that Harford County courts are willing to look at this case objectively,” Harford County Climate Action President Tracey Waite told The Aegis. “We hope the developers of Abingdon Woods will abandon this project and contact Harford Land Trust to arrange to sell the property to the state or county.”

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A hearing on the nonprofit’s injunction request is scheduled for Oct. 3. The foundation does not expect a ruling on the merits of the forest conservation plan until at least late autumn, according to the news release.

Organizers of the Save Abingdon Woods/Stop Abingdon Business Park Coalition posted the news of the temporary restraining order on the group’s Facebook page immediately after the announcement was made.

SOME GREAT NEWS: Thanks to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Legal Department, we have been granted a 35-day restraining...

Posted by Save Abingdon Woods on Friday, September 16, 2022

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