Conservation law for woods under review


Carroll County homeowners who wish to drill wells, or construct new decks or garages, soon could have more control over where they build.

The Carroll commissioners are pushing to relax some of the regulations in the county's Forest Conservation Ordinance, a law that seeks to preserve trees and minimize the impact of development on the landscape. The proposed changes will be discussed during a public hearing Tuesday.

"Our local law was more restrictive than the state required," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge. "These changes would simply make it easier on developers and homeowners."

Most of the proposed changes are intended to address specific problems that have arisen with the original ordinance, which was adopted shortly after the forest program was ordered by the state in 1992.

"Our intent was to clean up the language and make it easier for the average homeowner to understand," said Richard A. Owings, chief of the county's Bureau of Development Review.

Owings said some homeowners who live within the forest conservation zone have been frustrated because they did not have room to build garages or decks or drill wells without encroaching on the zone. To address this, the revised ordinance would expand the construction area around a home from 30 to 60 feet.

Some homeowners don't realize that they are allowed to remove existing fencing, he said, and some don't know that they may clear invasive species, provided they are replaced with other plants.

The 11 pages of proposed revisions accompany an inch-thick Forest Conservation Technical Manual, which includes a list of invasive exotic plants.

A committee of real estate agents, landscape architects and builders worked for six weeks on the proposed changes. Officials with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources have approved all of the proposals.

"I think the committee did a wonderful job," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell. "We don't expect a big turnout for the hearing, but we felt it was important to hold it at night to give everyone an opportunity to have their say."

The public hearing is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Room 003 of the County Office Building, 225 N. Center St., Westminster. The commissioners could take action as early as March 8.

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