[HISTORY: Adopted by the Board of County Commissioners of Dorchester County 8-23-1988 as Ord. No. 141. Amendments noted where applicable.]
This chapter shall be known and may be cited as the "Forestry Ordinance of Dorchester County, Maryland.
Purpose. The purpose of this chapter is to foster more sensitive forestry practices in the Chesapeake Bay critical area so as to minimize damage to water quality and natural habitat associated with the bay and its tributaries.
Editor's Note: The Critical Area Protection Program was adopted 8-23-88 by Res. No. 119.
The provisions of this chapter are pursuant to the Natural Resources Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland, § 8-1801 et seq. These provisions are adopted under the authority of the Dorchester County Code and shall apply to all timber harvests occurring in the unincorporated portion of Dorchester County within the critical area.
The application of this chapter and the provisions expressed herein shall be the minimum forestry management requirements and shall not be deemed a limitation or repeal of any other powers granted by state statute. The Dorchester County Highway Department shall be responsible for the coordination and enforcement of the provisions of this chapter.
The following definitions describe the meanings of the terms used in this chapter:
- The establishment of a tree crop on an area from which it has always or very long been absent, or the planting of open areas which are not presently in forest cover.
- Any person who executes the necessary forms to procure official approval of an activity or a permit to carry out an activity.
- BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES
- A combination of accepted forest practices designed to optimize production, control excessive erosion, improve or maintain water quality and protect valuable plant and wildlife habitat.
- The removal of an entire stand of trees in a single cutting.
- The complete removal of trees and brush in preparation for uses other than forestry.
- COMMERCIAL HARVESTING
- A commercial operation that would alter the existing composition or profile, or both, of a forest, including all commercial cutting operations performed by companies and private individuals for economic gain.
- CRITICAL AREA
- All waters of and lands under the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries to the head of tide, all state and private tidal wetlands and all land and water areas within 1,000 feet of the landward boundary of heads of tides and state or private tidal wetlands, as modified pursuant to Natural Resources Article, § 8-1807.
- DEVELOPED WOODLAND
- An area containing mainly trees and natural vegetation but which also includes residential, commercial or industrial structures and uses, and covering a land area of one acre or more.
- Those harvesting activities that are not subject to the forest management requirements contained in this chapter.
- A biological community dominated by trees and other woody plants, and covering a land area of one acre or more. This definition also includes forests that have been cut but not cleared.
- FOREST MANAGEMENT
- The protection, manipulation and utilization of the forest to provide multiple benefits such as timber harvesting, water transpiration or wildlife habitat.
- FOREST MANAGEMENT (HARVESTING) PLAN
- A plan for a forestry operation that shows how timber harvesting will be managed to conserve natural resources in the critical area.
- FOREST PRACTICE
- The alteration of a forest, either through tree removal or replacement, in order to improve its timber, wildlife, recreational or water quality value.
- Systematic forest management for the production of timber and conservation of natural resources.
- FORESTRY OPERATION
- The cutting of timber for commercial purposes.
- Any act of earth disturbance by which soil is stripped, stockpiled, excavated, scarified or filled, or any combination thereof.
- Provisions which allow certain preexisting uses to continue even though they may be inconsistent with a new law.
- HABITAT PROTECTION AREA
- A site or zone of special significance that provides a living environment for valuable plant or animal species. "Habitat protection areas" include the tidewater buffer, nontidal wetlands, habitat for species of concern, plant and wildlife habitat and anadromous fish propagation waters.
- NONCOMMERCIAL OPERATION
- The freeing of a young stand of desirable trees from the competition of undesirable trees that threaten to suppress them.
- NONTIDAL WETLANDS
- Land areas that have a predominance of hydric (wet) soils, are usually inundated or saturated by surface water or groundwater and that normally support a prevalence of hydrophytic (water-loving) vegetation. Nontidal wetlands do not include tidal wetlands, cropland or areas dominated by existing gravel or borrow pits, farm ponds and other man-made bodies of water, the purpose of which is to impound water for water supply, recreation, agriculture or waterfowl habitat purposes. (A more precise definition of "nontidal wetlands" can be found in the Dorchester County Critical Area Protection Program, Volume 1, Chapter 3, reference to which is hereby being made and the same is hereby incorporated herein by reference.)
- The federal government, the state, any county, municipal corporation or other political subdivision of the state or any of their units or an individual, receiver, trustee, guardian, executor, administrator, fiduciary or representative of any kind or any partnership, firm, association, public or private corporation or any of their affiliates or any other entity.
- The establishment of a forest through artificial reproduction or natural regeneration.
- The removal of single, scattered or groups of trees from uneven-aged stands by frequent and periodic cutting operations.
- SPECIES OF CONCERN
- Plant and wildlife species whose continuing existence is in question and which warrant special attention. This category includes endangered species, threatened species and species in need of conservation.
- TIDEWATER BUFFER
- A protective vegetated area established landward from the mean high-water line of tidal waters, tributary streams and tidal wetlands. The width of the buffer is a minimum of 100 feet, and will be expanded beyond 100 feet to include contiguous, sensitive areas of nontidal wetlands, soils with high erosion potential and certain hydric soils. (A more precise definition of "tidewater buffer" can be found in the Dorchester County Critical Area Protection Program, Volume 1, Chapter 5, reference to which is hereby being made and the same is hereby incorporated herein by reference.)
No person may conduct forestry operations in the critical area without implementing appropriate natural resource protection measures in accordance with the requirements of this chapter, except as provided within this section.
A forest management (harvesting) plan must be approved by the Dorchester County Forestry Board, and a forestry permit issued by the Dorchester County Highway Department.
Exemptions. The following forestry activities are exempt from the provisions of this chapter:
Forestry operations located within the critical area but outside of the tidewater buffer, provided that such operations would occur over greater than a one-year period and would affect less than one acre of forest or developed woodland, and further provided that nontidal wetlands would not be affected.
Normal silvicultural activities in nontidal wetlands that are dominated by loblolly pine, including construction and maintenance of logging roads, carried out for the purpose of growing, harvesting and regenerating forest land and conducted in accordance with best management practices.
The Dorchester County Forestry Board may grant a written variance from the requirements of this chapter if exceptional circumstances exist such that strict adherence to the provisions herein will result in unnecessary hardship and not fulfill the intent of this chapter. The following conditions apply:
Findings must be made which demonstrate that special conditions or circumstances exist which are peculiar to the land or structure involved and that literal enforcement of the provisions of the Critical Area Protection Program would result in unwarranted hardship.
A literal interpretation of the Critical Area Protection Program and related ordinances will deprive the applicant of rights commonly enjoyed by other properties in similar parts of the critical area.
The granting of a variance will not confer upon an applicant any special privilege that would be denied to other land or structures within the critical area.
The variance request is not based upon conditions or circumstances which are the result of actions by the applicant, nor does the request arise from any condition relating to land or building use, either permitted or nonconforming, on any neighboring property.
The granting of a variance will not adversely affect water quality or adversely impact fish, wildlife or plant habitat within the critical area and will be in harmony with the general spirit and intent of the Critical Area Law.
Editor's Note: See the Natural Resources Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland, § 8-1801 et seq.
The applicant shall submit a written request for a variance to the Dorchester County Forestry Board. The request shall state the specific variance sought and reasons for requesting the variance. The Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission shall receive a copy of the application for any variance that relates to the critical area at least 15 days prior to any hearing on such matter and shall receive a copy of the finding.
Variance decisions may be appealed to the Dorchester County Board of Zoning Appeals, and the decisions of that body may be appealed to the Circuit Court in accordance with the Maryland Rules of Procedure. Appeals may be taken by any person, firm, corporation or governmental agency. In addition, the Chairman of the Critical Area Commission may appeal an action or decision, even if the Chairman was not a party to or is not specifically aggrieved by the action or decision.
Grandfathering. Timber harvesting in the critical area shall be grandfathered pursuant to the following conditions:
A written timber sale contract is signed and dated prior to the adoption of the Critical Area Protection Program.
A Standard Erosion and Sediment Control Plan for Forest Harvest Operations, in accordance with the Dorchester County Code, Chapter 100, has been approved by the Dorchester Soil Conservation District prior to the effective date of the Critical Area Protection Program.
A grading permit has been issued through the Dorchester County Highway Department prior to the effective date of the Critical Area Protection Program.
The harvest is in compliance with the Maryland Seed Tree Law.
The harvest is conducted under an active Forest Conservation Management Agreement.
Habitat protection areas.
Commercial harvesting of trees in the tidewater buffer shall be limited to selection or clearcutting of loblolly pine and tulip poplar to within 50 feet of tidal waters, tidal wetlands and perennial tributary streams, and to the edge of intermittent tributary streams. Such cutting shall not occur in other habitat protection areas that may exist within the buffer.
A Buffer Management Plan shall be required for all commercial harvests within the buffer, regardless of the size of the areas to be cut, and shall contain the following minimum requirements:
[Amended 3-18-1997 by Ord. No. 247]
That disturbance to the stream banks and shorelines shall be avoided;
The area disturbed or cut shall be replanted or allowed to regenerate in a manner that assures the availability of cover and breeding sites for wildlife, and reestablishes the wildlife corridor function of the buffer; and
The cutting does not involve the creation of logging roads and skid trails within the one-hundred-foot tidewater buffer.
A person may not harvest timber in the critical area without an approved forest management (harvesting) plan. The plan must meet the requirements of the Dorchester County Forestry Board, the Dorchester County Critical Area Protection Program and this chapter and shall adhere to applicable state and federal regulations.
The forest management (harvesting) plan shall identify whether the proposed activities will disturb or affect habitat protection areas. Where such disturbance or effects are likely, the plan shall include buffer management and wetland mitigation components and shall incorporate best management practices and other measures to protect or conserve habitat areas and provide for continuity of natural habitat and wildlife corridors.
Content of plans.
The forest management (harvesting) plan shall include measures to protect surface water quality, conserve natural habitat and promote reforestation. The plan shall be prepared by a registered professional forester.
Any timber harvest within the tidewater buffer must be conducted in accordance with a buffer management component, and timber harvests affecting nontidal wetlands, except those dominated by loblolly pine, must adhere to a wetland mitigation component which specifies measures to provide water quality and habitat benefits equivalent to the wetland destroyed or altered. These components shall be an integral part of the forest management (harvesting) plan.
The buffer management and wetland mitigation components shall include information sufficient to evaluate the environmental characteristics of the affected areas, the potential impacts of the proposed timber harvest on water resources, and the effectiveness and acceptability of measures proposed for managing forestry operations in the tidewater buffer or nontidal wetland area. The wetland mitigation component shall conform to the methodology outlined in Guidelines for Protecting NonTidal Wetlands in the Critical Area (Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission, 1987).
Review and approval of plans.
The applicant shall submit the forest management (harvesting) plan, and any supporting documentation, to the Bay Watershed Forester for initial review. The Bay Watershed Forester shall forward the plan, together with any comments, to the Dorchester County Forestry Board for approval.
The Dorchester County Forestry Board should seek advice from the Maryland Forest, Park and Wildlife Service or other appropriate agencies when considering the approval of a forest management (harvesting) plan that involves habitat protection areas. The buffer management component shall be reviewed by the Forest, Park and Wildlife Service.
In approving the forest management (harvesting) plan, the Dorchester County Forestry Board shall consider all agency comments and may impose such conditions as deemed necessary to ensure compliance with the provisions of this chapter.
The Dorchester County Forestry Board shall notify the applicant or approval or reasons for the disapproval or modification of the plan. Notification shall occur within five working days for plans that do not include habitat protection areas, and within 15 working days for plans that include habitat protection areas. No plan shall be considered approved without the seal of the Dorchester County Forestry Board.
The approved forest management (harvesting) plan shall be fully implemented by the applicant in conjunction with any timber harvesting or related activities on the site.
Approved forest management (harvesting) plans shall remain valid for three years from the date of approval, unless renewed by the Dorchester County Forestry Board.
Plan revisions. Forest management (harvesting) plan revisions may be requested by the applicant or by the Dorchester County Highway Department. All revisions must be approved by the Dorchester County Forestry Board.
Permit requirements. No person may harvest timber in the critical area without having received a forestry permit from the Dorchester County Highway Department. The forestry permit shall not be issued unless a forest management (harvesting) plan has been approved by the Dorchester County Forestry Board as meeting all of the requirements of this chapter.
In issuing the forestry permit, the Dorchester County Highway Department may impose such conditions as may be deemed necessary to ensure compliance with the provisions of this chapter.
A permit fee scheduled may be established by the Dorchester County Commissioners for administration and management of the Forestry Ordinance.
The forestry permit shall expire two years from the date of issuance, and it will be extended or renewed by the Dorchester County Highway Department for two additional years at no charge if requested by the permit holder. Application for permit renewal should be made by the permit holder at least one month prior to the permit expiration date. After the expiration of the permit, the application shall be renewed for an additional two-year period at no cost to the permit holder.
[Amended 7-10-2001 by Ord. No. 295]
Permit suspension and revocation. The Dorchester County Highway Department may suspend or revoke any forestry permit, after providing written notification to the applicant, based on any of the following reasons:
Any violation of the terms and conditions of the approved forest management (harvesting) plan or forestry permit;
Changes in site characteristics upon which plan approval and permit issuance were based;
Noncompliance with any violation notice or stop-wok order issued; or
Any violation of this chapter or any rules and regulations adopted under it.
Registrations on issuance of permits or approvals. No approval, permit, variance or special exception for any property located within the Critical Area as regulated by this chapter shall be issued, unless the person seeking the permit, approval, variance, or special exception has:
[Added 3-2-2010 by Bill No. 2010-2]
Fully paid all administrative, civil, and criminal penalties imposed by this chapter for violation for the subject property within the Critical Area; and
Prepared a restoration or mitigation plan, approved by the County to abate impacts to water quality or natural resources as a result of the violation for the subject property within the Critical Area; and
Performed the abatement measures in the approved plan in accordance with the County's Critical Area Program, for the subject property, under this chapter; and
Satisfaction of all conditions specified under this section shall be a condition precedent to the issuance of any permit, approval, variance, or special exception for the affected property; and
Unless an extension of time is appropriate because of adverse planting conditions, within 90 days of the issuance of a permit, approval, variance, or special exception for the affected property, any additional mitigation required as a condition of approval for the permit, approval, variance, or special exception shall be completed.
Inspection frequency and reports.
All active timber harvesting sites in the critical area shall be inspected as necessary by the Dorchester County Highway Department to ensure compliance with the approved forest management (harvesting) plan, forestry permit and this chapter. The applicant shall notify the Highway Department before commencing any harvesting and again upon completion of the harvesting activity.
A final inspection shall be conducted by the Dorchester County Highway Department upon completion of the harvesting activity to determine if the completed operation was undertaken in accordance with the approved plan and this chapter. The applicant shall receive written notification of the results of the final inspection.
Inspectors shall prepare written reports after every inspection.
Right of entry. It shall be a condition of every forestry permit that the Dorchester County Highway Department has the right to enter property periodically to inspect for compliance with this chapter.
Complaints. Any complaints shall be directed to the Dorchester County Highway Department. Any complaint received shall be acted upon within seven days, and the complainant shall be notified of any action or proposed action within 10 days of receipt of the complaint.
When an inspector of the Dorchester County Highway Department determines that a violation has occurred, the inspector shall notify the applicant of the violation. Such notice shall be in writing and shall describe the nature of the violation, the required corrective action and the date by which the violation must be corrected.
If the violation persists after the date specified the corrective action in the notice of violation, the Dorchester County Highway Department shall stop forestry operations on the site. The Highway Department shall determine the extent to which work is stopped, which may include all work on the site except that work necessary to correct the violation.
If reasonable efforts to correct the violation are not undertaken by the applicant, the Dorchester County Highway Department shall take legal action on the violation.
The Dorchester County Highway Department may deny the issuance of any future permits to an applicant when the applicant is not in compliance with the provisions of an approved forest management (harvesting) plan or forestry permit.
If a person is working without an approved plan and permit, the Dorchester County Highway Department shall stop work on the site, except activity necessary to correct any violations.
Any person who violates any provision of this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof in a court of competent jurisdiction, shall be subject to a fine of not more than $1,000.
The County Commissioners of Dorchester County may institute injunctive, mandamus or other appropriate action or proceedings at law or equity for the enforcement of this chapter, or to correct violations of this chapter, and any court of competent jurisdiction shall have the right to issue restraining orders (temporary or permanent), injunctions, mandamuses or other appropriate forms of remedy or relief. These measures may include orders to cease operations on the site.
[Added 3-2-2010 by Bill No. 2010-1]
Civil penalties in the Critical Area. In addition to any other penalties for violations of this chapter, any person, including a contractor, property owner or any other person who committed, assisted, authorized or participated in a violation of Title 8, Subtitle 18, of the Annotated Code of Maryland entitled "Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area Protection Program" or a violation of this chapter relating to land and property within the Critical Area shall be guilty of a civil infraction under Chapter 147 of the Dorchester County Code.
The maximum civil penalty for each violation under this section shall be $10,000;
Each violation constitutes a separate offense;
Each calendar day that a violation continues constitutes a separate offense;
For each offense, a person shall be subject to a separate civil penalty;
Civil penalties for continuing violations shall accrue without a requirement for an additional assessment or notice;
On consideration of all the factors included in this section and any other factor in the County's Critical Area Program, the Director of the Dorchester County Department of Public Works (herein the "Director") shall impose the amount of the civil penalty;
In determining the amount of the civil penalty to be assessed under this section, the Director shall consider:
The gravity of the violation;
Any willfulness or negligence involved in the violation;
The environmental impact of the violation; and
The cost of restoration of the resource affected by the violation and mitigation for damage to that resource, including the cost to the state or local authorities for performing, supervising, or rendering assistance to the restoration and mitigation.
In this section, "owner" or "property owner" includes two or more persons holding title to the property under any form of joint ownership;
In this section "person" includes the federal government, the state, any county, municipal corporation, or other political subdivision of the state, or any of their units, or an individual receiver, trustee, guardian, executor, administrator, fiduciary, or representative of any kind, or any partnership, firm, association, public or private corporation, or any other entity, including a contractor, property owner or any other person who committed, assisted, authorized or participated in a violation of Title 8, Subtitle 18 of the Annotated Code of Maryland entitled "Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area Protection Program" or a violation of this chapter relating to land and property within the Critical Area;
The Director is hereby authorized to issue citations for civil infractions for Critical Area violations under this chapter, in accordance with § 147-2 of the Dorchester County Code and the amount of the civil penalty or fine to be assessed under this section. All civil penalties or fines for civil infractions under this section shall be payable to the County;
If a final adjudication of a notice of violation results in a determination that a violation has occurred, the person shall be liable for a penalty that is twice the amount of the assessment in the notice of violation, in addition to the cost of the hearing and any applicable mitigation costs; and
Application for a variance constitutes a waiver of the right to appeal the terms of a notice of violation and its final adjudication, including the payment of any penalties and costs assessed.
Administrative abatement orders. The Director is also authorized to issue with the citation for civil infractions an administrative abatement order requiring the owner, property owner or person to abate or to correct a Critical Area violation under this chapter or to cease work or activity being performed in the Critical Area. The administrative abatement order shall be served with the citation for civil infraction pursuant to Chapter 147, § 147-2 et seq. of this Code. The administrative abatement order shall be enforced pursuant to § 147-6F(4) and G of Chapter 147 of the Dorchester County Code.
Any person aggrieved by the action of any official charged with the enforcement of this chapter, as the result of the disapproval of a properly filed application for a permit, issuance of a written notice of violation or an alleged failure to properly enforce this chapter in regard to a specific application, shall have the right to appeal the action to the Dorchester County Board of Zoning Appeals. The appeal shall be filed in writing within 30 days of the date of official transmittal of the final decision or determination to the applicant and shall clearly state the grounds on which the appeal is based.
Any person aggrieved by the final action of the Dorchester County Board of Zoning Appeals may further appeal the action within 30 days of said action to the Circuit Court for Dorchester County in accordance with Chapter 1100, Subtitle B, Administrative Agencies - Appeal From, of the Maryland Rules of Procedure.