Dell questions county's forest conservation plan

Nearly a year ago, environmentalists, foresters and municipal leaders -- outnumbering a small group of developers -- urged the Carroll County commissioners to write their own forest conservation law.

Yesterday, that drafted proposal appeared to be in jeopardy as Commissioner President Donald I. Dell said he wasn't "quite ready to make a determination" on the county's proposal vs. the state law.


Counties in Maryland have been given the option of either adhering to the state forest conservation law or drafting their own.

During a brief meeting with the county's environmental staff -- attended by both opponents and proponents of forest conservation -- Mr. Dell raised concerns about the stringent aspects of Carroll's proposed ordinance.


Responding to concerns of developers and others, county officials made some revisions to the proposed law -- which is aimed at preserving Carroll's existing and fragmented forests -- following a public hearing in early October.

"I don't think the changes we made require a hearing," Michelle Ostrander, assistant county attorney, told the commissioners. "If you go to the state [law], I think you would need to start again. You have not had a hearing on the [state law]."

Developers have urged the county to adhere to the state's forest conservation law because it would be less stringent and less costly.

Martin K. P. Hill, a Manchester developer, attended yesterday's meeting.

Others, particularly planners and environmentalists, have urged the commissioners to adopt the stricter proposal which, among other things, would require anyone who disturbs 25,000 square feet or more of land to draft a plan to replace any trees felled during development.

Mr. Dell questioned how much staff the county needed to handle administration of the forest conservation law. Neil Ridgely, program manager for landscaping and forest conservation in the county's Office of Environmental Services, said he would be able to handle the duties associated with administering the proposed county law.

"Nobody in the state has ever done the work," he said. "As long as we continue to receive development at the rate we are now, we'll be OK."

Donna Baker, a state forester in Carroll, told commissioners that state cuts have forced forest services to be scaled back. State review of reforestation or afforestation plans are bound to take longer, she said.


Following the meeting, Frank Grabowski, who served as chairman of the subcommittee that drafted the ordinance, said, "I'm astonished that after 18 months of working with this thing they're thinking about trashing it." The subcommittee, composed of engineers, foresters and others, began working on the state-mandated ordinance in July 1991.

The state already has given the county's proposed law conditional approval and is awaiting adoption by the commissioners before taking final action.