The owner of Four Seasons Sports Complex in Hampstead must comply with the Forest Conservation Ordinance even though his construction project will not disturb any trees, a citizens board ruled yesterday.
Afterward, Environmental Affairs Advisory Board members said they were not happy that the law required them to make the ruling and agreed to meet next month to discuss amending the ordinance, which was enacted last year.
"I personally am dissatisfied with not being able to give him a certain degree of latitude. I think this should be investigated," member Arthur Peck said.
Sports complex owner Gregg Newman wants to grade 8 1/4 acres to build five outdoor soccer fields.
"I'm not doing anything different with the property. I'm taking a grass field and putting a grass field in. We're not touching any trees, any shrubs," he said.
The county Forest Conservation Ordinance was designed to protect and increase forests. Anyone who applies to subdivide or grade land must comply with the ordinance.
Under the law, Mr. Newman would be required to plant 1.5 acres in trees. He asked if that amount could be reduced to three-quarters of an acre because it would be an expensive project.
Doug Barmoy, president of Maryland Land Design and a consultant for Mr. Newman, estimated it would cost $10,000 to plant 1.5 acres in trees.
Board chairwoman Teresa Bamberger said the ordinance does not allow exceptions because a project would create a financial hardship.
Mr. Newman said that he was being made to pay for the fact that other people cut down trees on the property before he owned it.
At first, the board was willing to cut the forestation requirement to three-quarters of an acre. But, after a closed meeting with County Attorney George Lahey, the board voted unanimously that Mr. Newman would have to plant trees on 1.5 acres.
The law does not require that the trees be planted on Mr. Newman's property. He could pay to have trees planted in a forest bank at another location.
County Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said the citizens board should discuss changes to the ordinance and recommend them to the commissioners. Mr. Brown said he would consider a change that would allow more latitude for others in situations similar to Mr. Newman's.
Commissioner Donald I. Dell, an opponent of the law when it was written, added that the board should look at all parts of the ordinance and suggest changes.
He said he was glad Mr. Brown suggested the board recommend revisions to the commissioners.
"If I had said that, it would've looked like I wanted to gut the damned ordinance," Mr. Dell said.