Executive Gardner Announces Proposals to Protect Environmental and Historical Resources

The proposals will be considered and discussed by the County Council.

Frederick, MD – County Executive Jan Gardner announced two initiative proposals Friday morning that seek to protect the environmental and historical resources of Frederick County.

The proposals will be considered and discussed by the County Council with council member Kai Hagen introducing the legislation.

“It’s important that we act now,” Gardner said. “To ensure that we don’t lose our forests forever.”

The first proposal is an addition to the County’s Forest Resource Ordinance that will require a one-to-one replacement of every acre of forest cleared for development.

The one-to-one ratio requirement used to be law from 2008 to 2011 but was changed by the County Council to match state requirements.

“Between 2012 and 2019, Frederick County saw a net loss of about 480 acres of forest, Gardner said. “For an average of about 70 acres a year.”

Gardner said developers could plant new trees within the development or have other off-site options like forest banking.

The one-to-ratio would match a similar requirement already in place in Carroll County.

Gardner said there are exceptions to the proposed Forest Ordinance that wouldn’t require a one-to-one replacement, which includes timber harvesters, active farms, and transfers of land or lots to children as long as they clear under 20,000 square feet of forest.

The ordinance also exempts any lots that existed before 1992 if they cleared under 20,000 square feet of forest.

“This measure is really focused on new development,” Gardner said. “It does not apply to individual homeowners who may remove a tree in their yard.”

The second initiative is an amendment to the zoning ordinance, adding extra criteria before a property’s zoning designation can be changed..

The County Council would be required to identify sensitive environmental and historical resources and must avoid or minimize their impact the development would have.

Gardner said the proposal incorporates the Livable Frederick master plan and its values.

“I think this is forward thinking,” Gardner said. “And it puts our community’s values first.”

Gardner said the identification of the resources would take place before any decision on the zoning would be made.

The zoning proposal also creates definitions for terms like “an adequate transportation network” which are currently listed in rezoning requirements.

The added criteria would include safety of the road, bicycle safety, and any projects that could affect the roadways.

Gardner said the initiatives would create a method of reducing possible future environmental and financial detriments.

“Preventing forest loss is much less expensive than mitigating pollution and cleaning our waterways after the fact,” Gardner said. “Taking action to protect and preserve our forest makes good financial sense.”

By Timothy Young