Volume 25, Number 10 ● July 6, 2017
Increased Reforestation Requirement in Annapolis
On March 27, 2017, the Annapolis City Council approved changes to the local Forest Conservation (FC) Ordinance, known as the “No Net Loss” provision¹ because it requires additional reforestation for forest clearing activities associated with development projects. The changes, effective upon adoption, greatly increased the mitigation ratio for forest clearing. The Annapolis City Council acted to prevent canopy loss in the City of Annapolis and ultimately chose mitigation ratios that are now significantly more stringent than the State Forest Conservation Law with respect to reforestation and conservation thresholds.
How does this affect development of a parcel?
“No Net Loss” refers to the change in compensation required under the changed ordinance – now 1 acre for 1 acre of loss, rather than 0.25 acre of compensation for 1 acre of loss – when a project cannot meet the conservation threshold established for a given type of land use.
This change to the City’s FC Ordinance places a significantly greater mitigation burden on the developer, and at this time Annapolis lacks the resources to support compliance. The City does not currently have a fee-in-lieu program and suitable off-site mitigation areas are nearly impossible to find in within the boundaries of the City of Annapolis, as required by the ordinance. These factors may leave developers without viable options for satisfying the requirements of the FC Ordinance.
What does this mean for undeveloped sites?
Site development plans that would require extensive clearing – and therefore mitigation – could face significant hurdles in identifying practicable sites for reforestation due to limited options within Annapolis city limits; without adequate mitigation available, parcel development could be infeasible.
For some sites, development plans may be adjusted to impact currently non-forested areas and avoid tree clearing. Other parcels may have adequate non-forested land suitable for on-site reforestation to compensate for forest impacts taken in the development process.
The legislation is currently under review by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), which must approve changes to local FC Ordinances. Because the changes to the City of Annapolis’ FC Ordinance have stricter conservation and reforestation thresholds than the State Forest Conservation Law, MDNR may elect to challenge the new ordinance. It is uncertain at this time as to whether or not the MDNR will approve the “No Net Loss” provision or when a decision will be made.
If you have a project in the City of Annapolis, or if you are considering purchasing land there, please contact Mike Klebasko or Ken Wallis in our Maryland office for more about how the FC Ordinance could impact the property.
1. Note that the "No Net Loss" provision does not result in true "no net loss" unless clearing exceeds the conservation threshold.