Volume 26, Number 7 ● August 30, 2019
Anne Arundel County to Propose Changes to Forest Conservation Law
On September 3, 2019, County Executive Steuart Pittman plans to introduce legislation at the County Council meeting that will make forest conservation law significantly more stringent in Anne Arundel County. The County is proposing several key changes to the current forest conservation law that substantially increase the fee-in-lieu cost, restructure and increase the forest conservation threshold for sites five acres or larger, and double the reforestation rate for sites preserving forest cover above the forest conservation threshold – with the goal of protecting larger forested sites and bringing county code into compliance with state forest conservation code. This bill will have extensive impacts to all development in Anne Arundel County, particularly on larger sites.
The conservation threshold for all sites five acres or larger will increase under the proposed legislation. There are four different site size categories proposed, with increasing conservation thresholds for each size increase -- culminating in a 45% increase from current conservation thresholds for sites that are 50 acres or larger, for all land uses other than Agricultural and Resource Areas. This restructuring is intended to discourage the development of larger forested sites.
The fee-in-lieu is increasing for all site size categories, from $0.40 to $1.50 per square foot under the current law to $2.50 to $3.00 under the proposed law, depending on the specific category.
The reforestation requirement for all clearing above the conservation threshold is doubling, from one-quarter acre of reforestation required per acre cleared under the current regulations to one-half acre of reforestation required per acre cleared under the proposed regulation.
Anne Arundel County stated that the current fees, which are some of the lowest in the state, are too low to cover the true cost of replanting forest. With this fee increase, Anne Arundel County will have one of the highest fees in the state. It is possible that the increased fees will create a more viable forest mitigation banking market, but without the creation of available bank credits, developers will be forced to pay the higher fees. At this point, there are no approved forest mitigation banks publicly selling credits, thus forcing all reforestation to either be implemented on-site or be satisfied via the fee-in-lieu.
A draft of the bill is available and you can read the County’s news release highlighting this proposed legislation here. The County held a town hall meeting about the draft legislation on August 20, and anticipates hosting a public hearing on October 7. If the legislation passes through the County Council, the bill would take effect on December 1, 2019, and will have extensive impacts to all development in Anne Arundel County.
If you are concerned about these changes to forest conservation policy in Anne Arundel County, plan to attend the County Council meeting on September 3 and the public hearing that is anticipated for October 7. Wetland Studies and Solutions is following this issue closely and will update you on changes to the public hearing date, and any final decisions. If you have questions about the proposed regulation or how it may affect your projects within the Anne Arundel County, contact Mike Klebasko in our Millersville, Maryland office.