Development and Reforestation

An excavator is used to move dirt Friday afternoon at a housing development still under construction behind Oakdale High School.

Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner remembers getting letters from students who were distraught about the number of trees being cut down for new homes near Oakdale High School several years ago.

Back in 2011, the county commissioners had eliminated their previous 1:1 rule that required that each acre of forest that was eliminated for new development be replaced with another acre. It had a devastating effect: The county lost 480 acres between 2012 and 2019.

Now, Gardner (D) is proposing legislation that would put that ratio back in place and protect the county’s environmental resources. While she acknowledged that it will probably face opposition, she also noted that the current County Council is more environmentally minded than county officials of the past.

“My proposal will protect what our community values, our forest cover, our environmental resources and our rich history, before any new development is approved, so we can ensure a bright future for Frederick County,” Gardner said at her announcement Friday morning.

The Forest Resource Ordinance would exempt agricultural operations. It would also exempt individual residences, so that residents who want to cut down a tree in their yard would not be required to plant a new one.

The transferring of lots to children would also be exempt if less than 20,000 square feet of forest is cleared. Any lot that was recorded before 1992 would also be exempt if the forest clearing is under 20,000 square feet.

It would mainly apply to new developments, which often cut down multiple acres of trees in order to build.

Gardner said that the added trees would protect Frederick County’s resources, including helping to reduce runoff, which can help decrease phosphorus and nitrogen levels, in addition to providing shade and shelter.

Another proposal would apply to the zoning ordinance, so that the environmental and historical resources are identified before a property is allowed to rezone. It will also require the applicants to identify how they will minimize the impact of the rezoning on those resources.

The announcement comes after the County Council introduced a climate change resolution that would hold the county accountable to greatly reduce greenhouse emissions in the upcoming decades.

Councilman Kai Hagen (D) will introduce the legislation, and it is to be addressed at a Feb. 25 workshop. The bill will later be discussed at a public hearing.

“Our time to take action is now,” Gardner said.

Follow Erika Riley on Twitter: @ej_riley.

(15) comments

hayduke2

Long overdue. This should be a "no brainer" and move forward easily even though I bet the developer/real estate faction fights this. I would take it a step further and say that replacement trees have to be native species and of a certain caliper measurement.

mrnatural1

[thumbup][thumbup] hayduke.

CJMMJC

[thumbup]

elymus43

We can thank the council and Jan. for this proposal. Hopefully, this will pass when voted on.

hgiii123

A great and long overdue step at RETURNING the FRO legislation to its pre-2011 levels, which was when the Blaine Young administration gutted this ordinance, among many other egregious, anti-environmental and pro-development actions. Amazing that this took almost ten years to achieve; although would have happened in 2017 had form Council President Bud Otis not sided with the developer and real estate community. Thank you CE Gardner for your thoughtful action here, which will reap great benefits for all moving forward.

FrederickFan

Excellent proposal!

francesca_easa

Great news! How about taking it one step further - no new housing developments allowed! We like our quality of life and want to keep it that way. I love looking out my window and seeing the mountains in the distance. I am grateful to have the State Parks and rivers nearby to spend some time in nature. Instead convert vacant commercial properties where already the foundations and utility connections are in place into housing. Quit kowtowing to the developers.

shiftless88

Basically you are saying that no one should have children. That is the only way to stop growth. Do you have children?

mrnatural1

shiftless,

As far as I can tell, no one has said, or is even suggesting, that, "...no one should have children".

There are other ways to slow and then stop growth, the primary one being to "redirect" migrating people to other areas. A lot of FredCo's growth is from people moving here from MoCo and elsewhere. If that migration were reduced then people could continue to have kids and the population of FredCo would remain steady or even decline.

mrnatural1

Great comment francesca -- my thoughts exactly.

If the idea is to protect trees, an outright ban on new residential developments would do it.

I would add that since previous policy caused us to lose 480 acres, the ratio should not be 1:1 -- it should be 2 or 3 to 1, to get back what we lost due to previous greedy, selfish, and short-sighted actions.

Everything is a balance. Yes, people need to live somewhere, but existing residents have rights too! Those rights must be respected. Our quality of life needs to be more than a passing consideration.

We all know that each additional development lowers our quality of life further. Development does NOT pay for itself -- let alone lead to lower taxes. That's a myth that has been disproved over and over again. The additional people only add to traffic congestion and school overcrowding. No good comes from new development -- unless you are someone who benefits financially from it.

It's long past time to stop destroying what's left of our county. As bartenders like to say at closing time, "You don't have to go home but you can't stay here."

francesca_easa

Hear, hear Mr. Natural. A kindred spirit.

mrnatural1

Thanks francesca.

Here's a related comment I just posted:

https://www.fredericknewspost.com/opinion/letter_to_editor/can-t-we-do-better/article_5c186e8b-1a54-5d9c-a5a7-17912bdacb18.html

Coincidentally, without reading your comment above, my wife just suggested that the Frederick Towne Mall property be converted to residential.

CJMMJC

[thumbup]

matts853

Thank you, Jan.

The last council passed an ineffectual update to FRO because they caved to pressure from the building and real estate associations. Their bottom line almost always takes precedent over the environment. To them, standing forests are lost money. There’s little consideration to the greater good benefits from contiguous forests, or concern for already declining plant and wildlife populations (beyond deer and squirrels). So let’s hope this council has the political will to deliver a solid win for the environment, but I’m dubious. I had very high hopes for this council, but I still sense a general apathy towards the environment and fear of the political ramifications of coming across as pro-environment. If their reticence to adopt the climate change resolution is any indication, I fear that this too may get gutted. Frankly, I think whatever is passed should have a goal of a net increase in forest cover to the time before Blaine accelerated the losses we’re experiencing.

CapitanoZanetti

Great Idea Gardner.

Also

Let's make sure Frederick County Agricultural Land Preservation Program can protect forested land and Farms can be forested if this is not already the case.

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