Hello. My name is Mark Kleinschmidt and I am the President and CEO of the Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber is made up of about 500 members which include: large corporations, financial institutions, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations.
There are a lot of definitions of small business, the SBA says a small business has fewer than 500 people. From the Chamber’s perspective, we consider a small business to have fewer than 20 employees.
Small businesses are the backbone of the County economy since they make up over 85% of all businesses in the county. The proposed changes in the 68-19 Forest Conservation Bill will impact all businesses but in my view, it will have a disproportionate impact on small businesses.
Certain elements of 68-19, as written, will significantly increase in the amount of time and money it takes for residential and commercial construction projects. This will ultimately drive up the cost of housing and reduce the opportunities for businesses to expand.
Local governments have been challenged to try and balance environmental protection and economic development, both of which are critical to the wellbeing of the local community. The forest conservation aspects of 68-19 will bring this balancing act front and center.
Smart Growth means having Smart Policy formation that ensures the correct balance between environmental protection and economic growth. While 68-19 will improve reforestation, several amendments will help balance the new regulations while reducing negative impacts on economic development.
In moving forward, we encourage the Council to assemble the correct data that everyone can agree upon and allow the stakeholders the opportunity for meaningful and reasonable input. Every effort should be made to integrate the proposed changes of 68-19 into the other rules and regulations of the land development process, particularly stormwater management and the elements of the General Development Plan.
The business community is not saying NO to 68-19 we are saying WHOA. Let’s take the time to get this right and not enact legislation that will have unintended consequences and need to be amended in the future.