Buffer-areas bill draws supporters in Baltimore Co.


The Baltimore County Council heard a sales pitch yesterday from a coalition of environmental groups seeking approval of an enforcement tool they say will ensure protection of the county's most critical resource -- clean water.

About 30 environmental activists crowded into the council chamber to push for legislation prohibiting construction on land within 75 feet of any waterway in the county.

The law would require a buffer area so that storm water flowing into waterways would run along undeveloped woods and fields, rather than washing over driveways, rooftops and parking lots, said Robert Sheesley, the outgoing director of the Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management.

Mr. Sheesley said the law would prohibit development within 75 feet of the center of smaller, feeder streams and within 75 feet of the banks of larger waterways.

In the more sensitive trout streams, the buffer area would be extended to 100 feet, Mr. Sheesley said. Additional buffers would be required for building along streams near steep slopes, he said.

He added that the legislation is the result of three years of negotiations among developers, homebuilders and environmental activists.

The measure, widely seen as one of the centerpieces of Mr. Sheesley's four-year tenure, would not alter current requirements now imposed on developers.

The buffer areas have been required since an executive order was signed in June 1989 by the former county executive, Dennis F. Rasmussen. But by putting them into law, council would ensure that the requirements remain in effect, Mr. Sheesley said.

The bill is expected to be approved Monday night by council members, who cited an intensive lobbying effort by environmental groups.

But at least one contractor, Genstar Stone Products Co. of Hunt Valley, expressed opposition, describing the measure as a move by a government to take control of private lands without compensating property owners.

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