Residents voice support for forest law changes


Creating a "forest bank" and relaxing restrictions for municipalities under the county forest conservation ordinance are good ideas, Carroll County residents said at a hearing yesterday concerning amendments to the ordinance.

But once the law has been amended, leave it alone for a while so the county staff can enforce it, Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown suggested to the county commissioners.

"I believe at the time you passed it [the county forest conservation ordinance], you said you had a basic understanding and wanted the staff to go out and enforce it," said Mayor Brown, who is running for county commissioner.

"When you vote this time, I think you should end these amendments for a while and let the staff get out there and enforce it without thinking that every time somebody complains, it will be drawn back to the table," he said.

"Some interest groups now lack confidence [in the commissioners] and feel there have been an unusual number of revisions based on developer complaints."

Mr. Brown's comments were met coolly by Martin K. P. Hill, a Manchester developer who vociferously fought the forest conservation ordinance.

"I think all we're hearing is political rhetoric," Mr. Hill said. "When it was enacted, nobody, including Mr. [Neil] Ridgely [county landscaping and forest conservation program manager], understood the implications of the ordinance.

"Just because it is politically correct, you should not force something wrong down people's throats."

Most citizens at the half-hour hearing said they supported the amendments and said the regulations were now more clear.

The amendments being considered would: allow for a tree bank, so that trees being planted in one part of the county might be used to offset some cut in another area; would give some leeway to municipalities that remove trees; would define some terms; and would allow off-conveyances disturbing less than 15,000 square feet to be exempt from the law's requirements for replacing trees.

But Atlee Edrington, a Finksburg farmer who recently applied for waiver from the commissioners, still maintains that his constitutional rights are being violated by the forest conservation ordinance.

Mr. Edrington, 80, wants to harvest the trees on his 8-acre farm without signing a declaration of intent, which states he will not develop his land for seven years after cutting the trees.

"A farmer down the road from me is harvesting his corn without a declaration of intent," Mr. Edrington said. "Why should I have to sign a declaration of intent to harvest my lumber?"

The declaration of intent is part of the state forest conservation law and must be included in the county's version, said James E. Slater, county environmental services administrator.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said the record will remain open for further comment for 10 days.

After that, the commissioners will decide whether to adopt the amendments, he said.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad