Frederick County is losing too much forest to development. County Executive Jan Gardner has put forward well-considered legislation to reverse this trend, which County Councilman Kai Hagen introduced as amendments to the Forest Resource Ordinance (Bill No. 20-05) and the zoning ordinance (Bill No. 20-04).
Forests improve public health by naturally filtering water and cleaning our air, removing up to 13 tons per acre of dust and gases (carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide) annually. They reduce energy costs and provide wildlife habitat.
And don’t forget the importance of the forest industry to our state and county economy. Proposed changes to the zoning ordinance seem reasonable, supportive of development while specifying considerations for resource protections during the process. Changes to the “Application” section define Sensitive Environmental Resources (SERs) to be identified in, and receive consideration for approval of, Phase I applications for Planned Development District reclassification.
Those SERs include 25-foot buffers around flood plains and jurisdictional wetlands; priority conservation and forestation areas; and, steep slopes (greater than 25 percent) associated with erodible soils. Such areas will be excluded from net density calculations (as will roadway areas), and are to be identified with impact avoidance plans in such applications.
Putting traffic studies and roadway improvement plans in the application phase of development makes good sense as well. Adopting these amendments will protect Frederick County forest acreage from annual loss to development, add consideration and provide better outcomes for SERs during development, and ensure woodland cleared for development is replanted and maintained using a one-to-one ratio.
I hope this informs everyone of benefits contained in Bill No. 20-04 and Bill No. 20-05 We support them as a group, and hope you all will, too.
Paul Walker is the group chair of the Sierra Club Catoctin Group (Frederick and Carroll counties)