Anne Arundel Holds Public Hearing on Contentious Forest Conservation Bill

Bay Journal article (2019-10-8) reported that Anne Arundel County held a nearly three-hour public hearing on a contentious forest conservation bill introduced by County Executive Steuart Pittman. The article indicated that the bill was supported by environmental and civic groups and opposed by developers and the real estate industry.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, Pittman introduced the bill in an effort to stem the loss of forest in the County. The County has lost 2,775 since 2010 – more than any other county in Maryland.

The bill has five key components and would:

  • increase the “conservation thresholds” that determine how much of a site developers may clear without having to replant or pay a fee;
  • add protections for the largest and most ecologically important forests;
  • increase the fee-in-lieu amount from $0.40 to $2.50 per square foot;
  • increase tree replanting requirements; and
  • bring county code into compliance with the most recent state forest conservation code.

From the article:

“This is not anything radical,” Pittman told about 200 supporters at a rally for the bill outside the county office building in Annapolis before the hearing…

“By any measure, we are losing forest in this county, and that means we are harming water quality,” said Alison Prost, Maryland director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which supports the bill…

“This is not a forest conservation bill. This is an anti-development bill,” declared Angelica Bailey, vice president of the Maryland Building Industry Association.

Even without the forest conservation bill, the county is facing a housing crunch, industry representatives say. They argued that Anne Arundel’s designated growth area only has room for about 7,600 more residential units, yet the Baltimore Metropolitan Council has projected growth of more than 30,000 new households countywide through 2045.

“The result will be to deflect significant amounts of future growth to Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore,” predicted Tom Ballentine, vice president for policy for the Maryland chapter of the commercial real estate industry association.

The article also stated that two officials from the City of Annapolis testified that the City did not did not see a halt in development when it adopted a “no net loss” tree policy several years ago.

After hearing testimony from 75 people, the County Council unanimously agreed to delay voting on the bill until October 21. The decision gave the Council extra time to consider the complex issue and potential amendments to the bill.

The article noted that Howard County has also introduced legislation to strengthen its forest conservation goals. Depending on what happens in Anne Arundel, other counties may also consider taking similar action.

Useful Links

Bill 68-19 (Forest Conservation Legislation)

Prior Conduit Street Coverage