The Anne Arundel County Council continues to review and debate an ordinance that was developed by the Pittman Administration that would change the regulations and fee structure of forest conservation for land development throughout the County. There is general agreement that there should be an update to the existing forest conservation regulations, the legislation as initial drafted has a number of significant elements that would have a negative impact on the economy and business activity in the County.
It was clear that the Council received many comments from those who support 68-19 as written and those who want to see it amended. The Chamber’s position has been—WHOA and not NO. We support the concept of preserving forested areas due to their environmental benefits, but it must be done in a responsible way and the proposed legislation needs to be amended. There were 25 proposed amendments to the bill and there appears to be more coming. The amended bill will be up for public hearing on November 4th.
It seems 68-19 was developed by the Pittman Administration without much input from all stakeholders, which is one reason why twenty-five (25) amendments were introduced last night. As we move forward with this bill and other regulatory bills, it is important that the business community has a seat at the table so we can avoid so many amendments.
The key areas of concern for Ordinance 68-18include:
- “Grandfathering” plans already in the pipeline by a certain date
- The process to modify a plan since each plan has unique features
- Disagreement on what data is being used to measure forested areas
- The size of contiguous forested areas
- Thresholds for preservation
- Establishment and operation of mitigation banks
- Fines and Fees-in-Lieu Of
- The quality of trees to be protected