City Takes Wide-Ranging Steps to Improve Forest Conservation Practices
Annapolis, MD (6-11-12) Mayor Joshua J. Cohen announces that the City of Annapolis is taking steps to revise and improve its ordinances, polices and procedures that relate to Maryland’s Forest Conservation Act. The City’s actions are both administrative and legislative and come in response to public questions and concerns raised about the City’s implementation of the Forest Conservation Act.
On June 8th the City published a draft set of revised criteria for reviewing proposed development within priority forest areas. The criteria are divided into three sections:
- Priority for forest retention and protection
- Demonstration of proposal to disturb a priority forest
- Review of forest conservation plans
The proposed development review criteria borrow heavily from Natural Resources Title 5, Subtitle 16, which defines the Forest Conservation Act, and the Forest Conservation Manual, a Department of Natural Resources guide to the implementation of the Forest Conservation Act.
The criteria are posted at http://tiny.cc/659qfw for a 15-day public comment period. All public comments must be emailed to email@example.com by June 23. DNEP will review all public comments and will post the final criteria on June 28.
In addition to the revised development review criteria, DNEP has established a clearer and more defined process for making determinations about a site’s natural features. Previously, an applicant would submit the Forest Stand Delineation (FSD) at the time of site design, and City staff would review the site design and the FSD concurrently. This overlapping review of the environmental features often added delay and expense, as changes in the environmental review would require further changes in the site plan.
At the Mayor’s direction, DNEP has now established a clearer process for addressing the environmental features of a property prior to reviewing a site plan. Before a development project moves forward to the site design review process, the applicant must now first submit an FSD and natural resources inventory to DNEP for review. DNEP then reviews these documents to establish areas that are off-limits to development prior to commencing the site design review process. This change allows the City to apply a high standard to preserve a site’s key environmental features before a developer submits plans showing any man-made improvements. Working Group
In addition to these administrative changes, the Mayor has proposed a Working Group to broadly review the City Code, policies and procedures pertaining to forest conservation. Resolution R-26-12 which appoints the seven-member working group is scheduled to be voted on by the City Council on June 18.
The members include:
- Judge Joseph Manck, Chair
- Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson
“The City is taking action on several fronts to ensure that our development policies strike the right balance in protecting our natural environment and promoting quality economic development,” Mayor Cohen said. “We are making the steps in our development process clearer and more well-defined to ensure that our environmental review better protects the key environmental features of properties slated for development, while also reducing uncertainty and unnecessary time and expense for the applicant.
“Looking ahead, the proposed Working Group will have broad latitude to review the City’s ordinances, policies and procedures relating to forest conservation. The seven individuals include both environmental advocates and developers who collectively will bring a balance of perspectives to their important work.”
The Working Group is charged with reporting its recommendations to the Mayor and City Council within 90 days of appointment.