County Executive Reneges on Campaign Promise to Stop Forest Destruction

While county bill won’t affect Crystal Spring, thousand of acres of forest at risk in the county

Questions have been raised about County Executive Pittman’s just introduced ordinance regarding forest conservation. This legislation is a disappointment as it falls way short of stopping the loss of forest in the county from development. Please don’t be fooled by this plan and the hype associated with it. While it will not affect Crystal Spring because the property was annexed into the city, thousands of more acres of forest will be lost in the county.

The following example illustrated just how weak this legislation is. If the 176-acre tract at Crystal Spring was still in the County, the planned clearing of 30 acres of mature forest could occur with ZERO reforestation required. The County ordinance would do nothing in this case to change the status quo. Where’s the progress?

Under the City of Annapolis No Net Loss of Forest Ordinance enacted last year, developers must replace 100% of forest cleared–every single acre they cut, they must replace. We worked closely with the Mayor and Council to ensure this legislation passed and that it would apply to the Crystal Spring development. This was a huge win as developers and their attorneys vigorously opposed the law.

The developers of Crystal Spring have been refusing to keep their promise to reforest 100% of forest cleared. In their most recent filing of January 2019, they tried to use a loophole and proposed clearing 30 acres and replanting ZERO. The City slapped their hands and rejected this plan and told them to submit a new plan showing where they would replant all forest cleared and ordering them to reduce forest loss.

Also, two years ago, the City Council passed a law that increased the fee-in-lieu of replanting to $10/sq. ft. ($435,600 an acre), which makes it highly unlikely a developer would choose to use this option to avoid replanting. The proposed ordinance in the county will offer a fractional fee in comparison.

In answering our questionnaire during the 2018 campaign, County Executive Pittman pledged to introduce an ordinance if elected like the City no net loss law. Instead, he introduced an admittedly weaker bill.

The County Executive announced the ordinance to deal with the staggering loss of forest in Anne Arundel County citing the 2,775 acres of forest destroyed by developments in the last decade. He noted this was 40% of all such forest loss in the state. The County Executive even mentioned that the County allowed more forest to be destroyed in the last decade than Calvert, Prince George’s, Howard, Baltimore County, and Baltimore City combined. This conversion of forest to impervious surfaces has led to major stormwater runoff problems causing flooding, erosion, and pollution flows to our creeks and streams. He also cited the other values of forest and the necessity to protect them.

Then why is the County Executive reneging on his pledge to stop the loss of forest?

Because he has chosen to listen to bright, young aides who convinced him not to honor his campaign pledge because they thought a no net loss law would not pass. Isn’t putting a stop to forest loss worth fighting for? The City passed such a law and Anne Arundel County could become the model for the other counties and the state to emulate.

Please click here to write the County Executive and tell him you are disappointed he did not keep his pledge and that you want to see him introduce a no net loss ordinance as he pledged to do. Also advise your County Council member similarly. If you are in the Annapolis area, it may be Lisa Rodvien, who also signed our pledge to work for a no net loss ordinance. You can use the county website to look up your county council district and representative by clicking here.

Meaningful change is always a tough fight while half-measures are condemning the Bay to a slow, inexorable death.