Builders who must plant trees as part of Carroll County's forest conservation ordinance may be able to tap into "tree banks" under a proposal before the commissioners.
The so-called banking program would allow developers to buy the rights to trees that have been planted in designated areas for that purpose, county officials said.
Designated banks would be targeted for builders who must plant where trees previously didn't exist, such as in commercial and industrial areas. Those who must replant trees felled during construction would not be able to use the banks.
Under the county's forest conservation ordinance, anyone who disturbs 25,000 square feet or more of land must replace any trees felled during construction. The ordinance also requires developers to plant trees in areas where they previously didn't exist.
The county's ordinance doesn't provide for forest conservation banking. Officials in the Office of Environmental Services want the commissioners to establish a banking program by policy. Its aim would be to help builders comply with the law and enhance Carroll as an attractive business location.
"I think it's a good idea if we have to have a forest conservation law," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell. "There's no provision now."
Under a typical scenario, a developer may have 20 acres and only need three for his own afforestation -- planting trees where none previously existed -- requirements. The developer could plant trees on the remaining acreage and sell the rights of those trees to other builders who need to comply with the ordinance.
"There may be some opportunity here for business development," said James E. Slater, administrator of Carroll's Office of Environmental Services.
Mr. Dell said developers are interested in seeing the county initiate the banking program. He said builders want to plant trees now and use those trees to meet afforestation requirements later, when they move forward with development plans.
"[Our law] doesn't allow them to have credit for that," he said. "It's better than waiting five years to build and then plant trees. They'll be that much further ahead. I think we should encourage that as much as we possibly can."
County officials said that in business parks there often is little spacefor developers to meet the afforestation requirements and still build on the site. On a three-acre tract, for example, a developer would be required to plant trees on 15 percent, or a half-acre.
Under the county's proposal, banking areas:
* Would be accepted by the county only after trees have been planted.
* Could not be claimed as banks until the area is planted and the owner puts up a bond.
* Will be for afforestation plantings only.
* Could be transferred to homeowners associations or conservancy after the site has been planted and recognized as a successful banking area by the county.