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Limiting landscape rules in Carroll


Perhaps fewer landscaping regulations would mean more attractive trees and shrubs.

Perhaps, if Carroll County bureaucrats stayed out of the lawn care business, developers would plant more evergreens and blooming bushes.

That is the message that Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier are sending to taxpayers. They have proposed abolishing all but one of the county's landscaping requirements.

Under their proposal, residential landscaping would no longer be regulated, and commercial and industrial landscaping would be subject to minor oversight.

"Residential landscaping [regulation] is too intrusive," said Dell, a proponent of private property rights.

"People should be able to landscape their properties the way they want to," Dell said, "rather than having a bureaucrat say, 'You have to plant a certain tree of a certain size in a certain place.'"

Frazier echoed Dell's feelings. "The regulations restrict creativity. I think if we got rid of the red tape, we could end up with more attractive subdivisions. History has shown that people will plant trees and shrubs, regardless of whether there's regulations" she said.

Board President Julia Walsh Gouge is against the proposal.

"I would like to see our landscaping [regulations] remain intact," she said, noting concern about the requirement for plants and trees to screen commercial buildings from homes.

Every jurisdiction in the Baltimore metropolitan area has landscaping requirements similar to those in Carroll County, and many local jurisdictions - including Mount Airy, Westminster and Hampstead - have adopted guidelines.

"What works in other counties doesn't work here," Dell said. "The landscaping manual is a perfect example of that."

Under Carroll's landscaping regulations, developers are required to plant at least one tree for every house, commercial building or apartment they build, and at least one tree for every 12 parking spaces.

In commercial areas, they must also plant trees along the roadway every 20 feet, and provide a 6-foot-wide planting area between the new commercial building and adjoining residential properties.

The landscaping requirements were adopted in 1989 and are enforced through Carroll's subdivision and zoning laws. The regulations, outlined in a 35-page manual, were reviewed by a committee that recommended few changes, county officials said.

The report detailing the panel's suggestions was not available yesterday. The review of the landscaping regulations was ordered as part of an effort to update Carroll's 160 ordinances, a process that began in August 1998. The next step is a public hearing, where residents will be invited to comment on the proposed changes. The hearing has not been scheduled.

If, after considering the public's input, the commissioners dispose of the landscaping manual, the lone remaining landscaping requirement would become part of the county's forest conservation ordinance, which requires developers to save trees.

If the proposal is adopted, businesses would no longer be required to plant trees and shrubs screening their property from neighbors. They would merely have to plant trees along the driveway, which would help them meet the state- mandated forest conservation requirements.

"This would simplify things and save taxpayers money," said Frazier, former chairwoman of the county planning commission. "We wouldn't have to send someone out to look at [landscaping] plans and measure the distance between bushes."

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