At a press conference last week, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced that he would be introducing updates to the Howard County Forest Conservation Act. While the legislation has not yet been filed, the intention behind the updates is to bring Howard County in line with the Maryland Forest Conversation Act. The highlights of the proposal, as articulated by the County Executive and as outlined below, meet (and in some instances exceed) the current requirements of the Maryland Forest Conservation Act.
Howard County Forest Conservation Act Updates Include:
- Full compliance with State Law – The amendment will seek to establish full compliance with State Law, including required on-site retention for champion and specimen trees.
- Increased replanting obligations – to ensure developers contribute to reforestation efforts across the entire watershed.
- Improved stewardship of the Green Infrastructure Network (“GIN”) – The update will add GIN to retention and reforestation priorities, as well as requiring its inclusion on development plans.
- New site design requirements – residential developments must meet 75% of their forest conservation obligations on-site before off-site compliance can be considered. Nonresidential developments must protect all sensitive areas with Forest Conservation Easements.
- Fee-in-lieu – a maximum of 1-acre forest obligation can be met through fee-in-lieu in a residential development. Inside a planned service area, the fee is raised from $0.75 to $1.25 per square foot. Outside a planned service area, the fee is raised from $0.95 to $1.50 per square foot.
- Tightened variance regulation to limit exceptions. Under the new proposed requirements, variances will only be granted to applicants meeting the unwarranted hardship standard. Increased costs and inconvenience (e.g. loss of lots) will no longer constitute unwarranted hardship.
Rosenberg Martin Greenberg is closely following the Howard County Forest Conservation Act Updates. If there are particular sites that you own, or you are seeking to develop in Howard County, contact Adam Baker for more details on its potential impact on your project; 410-727-6600 or by email email@example.com.