The Carroll commissioners yesterday questioned Mount Airy's forest conservation law, which calls for any fines collected in the town to be returned there for tree plantings.
"The biggest concern I have is that I don't know what their ordinance says," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell. "We have said that our staff will enforce the ordinance for them. But I can't feel comfortable about having our people enforce that when there may be something the commissioners may not agree with."
Mr. Dell said that the commissioners plan to meet with Mount Airy officials to discuss the ordinance, which was adopted by the Town Council last month. The Town Council modified the county's forest conservation ordinance to meet Mount Airy's needs.
No other Carroll town has modified the county ordinance, which is intended to preserve woodlands. The other towns have agreed to adhere to the county version.
Under the county law, anyone who disturbs 25,000 square feet or more of land must replace trees felled during development. Developers also are required to plant trees in certain areas, such as agriculturally zoned land, where they did not previously grow.
In adapting the county ordinance, Mount Airy officials have required that developers who must plant or replace trees because of building projects in the town must give priority to sites within town limits.
In addition, the town's ordinance requires any fines paid into the county's forest conservation fund by Mount Airy builders to be used for tree projects within town limits.
"I don't see why the fine money should go back to [Mount Airy]," said Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy. "I think it should be the same as everywhere else. It should be a matter of form for the county to collect and spend the money."
Carroll's ordinance allows the county to fine violators 30 cents per square foot of the area disturbed by development. The county last month fined Stauffer Funeral Homes of Frederick $3,649 for tearing down trees at the site of a proposed funeral home in Mount Airy.
Neil Ridgely, Carroll's program manager for landscaping and forest conservation, said that the money has been collected and that county officials are waiting to hear from Mount Airy officials before buying trees for plantings there.
The commissioners said that Mount Airy may be overstepping its bounds.
"The tendency to usurp county authority is there," Mr. Dell said.
Mount Airy Mayor Gerald R. Johnson disagreed.
"That's not the intent," he said. "The intent is to benefit Mount Airy. We want to be able to use the money from fines collected here."
Other modifications to the ordinance address the review process. Town officials will review all Mount Airy plans for forest conservation before they are sent to the county.
Mr. Johnson said the Town Council changed the county's ordinance because officials felt modifications were needed to better serve Mount Airy.
"If other municipalities had unique concerns, they should be able to address those concerns by modifying the [ordinance]," he said.
"Our concern is that if there are monies paid due to violations, that money should be earmarked for the municipality where they were involved."