Charles County, MD
 
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
A person making application after the effective date of this chapter for a subdivision, County project approval, a grading permit or sediment control approval for an area of land of 40,000 square feet or greater, except as provided for in Article I, § 298-4, shall:
A. 
Conduct afforestation on the lot or parcel in accordance with the following:
(1) 
A tract having less than 20% of the net tract area in forest cover shall be afforested up to at least 20% of the net tract area for the following land use categories:
(a) 
Agriculture and resource areas.
(b) 
Medium-density residential areas.
(2) 
A tract with less than 15% of its net tract area in forest cover shall be afforested up to at least 15% of the net tract area for the following land use categories:
(a) 
Institutional development areas.
(b) 
High-density residential areas.
(c) 
Mixed-use and planned unit development areas.
(d) 
Commercial and industrial areas.
B. 
Comply with the following when cutting or clearing forest cover that is currently below the afforestation percentages described in Subsection A(1) and (2) of this section.
(1) 
The required afforestation level shall be determined by the amount of forest existing before cutting or clearing begins.
(2) 
Forest cut or cleared below the required afforestation level shall be reforested or afforested at a 2:1 ratio and added to the amount of afforestation necessary to reach the minimum required afforestation level, as determined by the amount of forest existing before cutting or clearing began.
The following trees, shrubs, plants and specific areas shall be considered priority for retention and protection and shall be left in an undisturbed condition unless the applicant has demonstrated, to the satisfaction of the Department, that all reasonable efforts have been made to protect them and the plan cannot be reasonably altered:
A. 
Trees, shrubs, and plants located in sensitive areas, including the Resource Protection Zone, one-hundred-year floodplains, intermittent and perennial streams and their forest management buffers, steep slopes exceeding 25% and steep slopes exceeding 15% with soils having a "K" value greater than 0.35, nontidal wetlands and critical habitat areas.
B. 
Contiguous forest that connects the largest undeveloped or most vegetated tracts of land within and adjacent to the site.
C. 
Trees, shrubs or plants determined to be rare, threatened or endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1531 through 1543, published in 50 CFR 17.11 and 17.12, and the Maryland list of threatened and endangered species published under the Natural Resources Article, §§ 4-2a-01 through 4-2a-09 and 10-2a-01 through 10-2a-09, of the Annotated Code of Maryland, published in COMAR 08.03.08 and 08.02.12.
D. 
Trees that:
(1) 
Are part of an historic site;
(2) 
Are associated with an historic structure; or
(3) 
Have been designated by the state or the Department as a national, state or County champion tree.
E. 
Any tree having a diameter measured at 4.5 feet above the ground of:
(1) 
Thirty inches or more; or
(2) 
Seventy-five percent or more of the diameter, measured at 4.5 feet above the ground, of the current state champion tree of that species as designated by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
A. 
There is a forest conservation threshold established for all land use categories, as provided in Subsection B of this section. The "forest conservation threshold" means the percentage of the net tract area at which the reforestation requirement changes from a ratio of 1/4 acre planted for every acre removed above the threshold to a ratio of two acres planted for every acre removed below the threshold.
B. 
After every reasonable effort to minimize the cutting or clearing of trees and other woody plants has been exhausted in the development of a subdivision or site plan, grading and sediment control activities and development of the forest conservation plan, the forest conservation plan shall provide for reforestation or payment into the forest conservation fund, according to the formula set forth in Subsections B and C of this section and consistent with § 298-9 of this chapter and the following forest conservation thresholds for the applicable land use category:
Category of Use Threshold Percentage
Area
Threshold
Agricultural and resource
50%
Medium-density residential
25%
Institutional development
20%
High-density residential
20%
Mixed-use and planned unit development
15%
Commercial and industrial use
15%
C. 
Calculations.
(1) 
For all existing forest cover measured to the nearest 1/10 acre cleared on the net tract area above the applicable forest conservation threshold, the area of forest removed shall be reforested at a ratio of 1/4 acre planted for every acre removed.
(2) 
Each acre of forest retained on the net tract area above the applicable forest conservation threshold shall be credited against the total number of acres required to be reforested under Subsection C(1) of this section. The calculation of the credit shall be according to the criteria provided in the Maryland Forest Conservation Technical Manual.
(3) 
For all existing forest cover measured to the nearest 1/10 acre cleared on the net tract area below the applicable forest conservation threshold, the area of forest removed shall be reforested at a ratio of two acres planted for every one acre removed below the threshold.
(4) 
Forest retained on site but not subject to long-term protective agreements shall be considered as forest removed for the purpose of determining reforestation or afforestation requirements.
A. 
After techniques for retaining existing forest on the site have been exhausted, the alternative methods for afforestation, reforestation and off-site retention, as determined by the Department, in order of most to least preferred, is as follows:
(1) 
On-site afforestation or reforestation, if economically feasible, using transplanted nursery stock that is greater than 1.5 inches diameter measured at 4.5 feet above the ground;
(2) 
On-site afforestation or reforestation, using whip and seedling stock;
(3) 
On-site landscaping of areas under an approved landscaping plan which establishes a forest that is at least 35 feet wide and covers 10,000 square feet or more of area;
(4) 
For projects located within the development district, acquisition of off-site protective easements for existing forested areas not currently protected, afforestation and reforestation, in order of the most to least preferred with the given ratios:
(a) 
Located within the same MD DNR eight-digit watershed as the development project is located and within the development district. Area obtained to meet this criteria shall be retained at a 2:1 ratio or planted at a 1:1 ratio. The MD DNR eight-digit watersheds located in the development district are Mattawoman Creek, Zekiah Swamp, Port Tobacco River and Potomac River.
(b) 
Located within the development district but not in the same watershed as the project. Area obtained to meet this criteria shall be retained at a 2:1 ratio or planted at a 1:1 ratio.
(c) 
Located within the same MD DNR 8-digit watershed as the development project is located and outside the development district. Area obtained to meet this criteria shall be retained at a 3:1 ratio or planted at a 2:1 ratio.
(d) 
Located outside the development district and not within the same watershed. Area obtained to meet this criteria shall be retained at a 4:1 ratio or planted at a 3:1 ratio.
(5) 
For projects located in the development district, methods for afforestation and reforestation planting requirements in order of most to least preferred are as follows:
(a) 
Off-site afforestation or reforestation in areas described as a priority in Subsection C of this section, using transplanted or nursery stock that is greater than 1.5 inches diameter measured at 4.5 feet above the ground;
(b) 
Off-site afforestation or reforestation in areas described as a priority in Subsection C of this section, using whip and seedling stock;
(c) 
Off-site afforestation or reforestation in areas described as a priority in Subsection C of this section, using natural regeneration;
(d) 
Off-site afforestation or reforestation in areas not specified as a priority in Subsection C of this section, using transplanted or nursery stock that is greater than 1.5 inches diameter measured at 4.5 feet above the ground;
(e) 
Off-site afforestation or reforestation in areas not specified as a priority in Subsection C of this section, using whip and seedling stock;
(f) 
On-site afforestation or reforestation in areas not specified as a priority in Subsection C of this section, using natural regeneration;
(g) 
Off-site afforestation or reforestation in areas not specified as a priority in Subsection C of this section, using natural regeneration;
(h) 
On-site afforestation or reforestation using street trees, based on a mature canopy coverage.
B. 
A sequence other than the one described in Subsection A of this section may be used for a specific project, if necessary, to achieve the objectives of the County Land Use Plan or County land use policies or to take advantage of opportunities to consolidate forest conservation efforts.
C. 
The following shall be considered a priority for afforestation and reforestation:
(1) 
Establish or enhance forest buffers adjacent to intermittent and perennial streams to widths of at least 50 feet.
(2) 
Establish or enhance nonforested areas on one-hundred-year floodplains, when appropriate.
(3) 
Establish or increase existing forested corridors to connect existing forests within or adjacent to the site, and where practical, forested corridors should be a minimum of 300 feet in width to facilitate wildlife movement.
(4) 
Establish or enhance forest buffers adjacent to critical habitats, where appropriate.
(5) 
Establish plantings to stabilize slopes of 25% or greater and slopes of 15% or greater with a soil "K" value greater than 0.35, including the slopes of ravines or other natural depressions.
(6) 
Establish or enhance forest plantings on marginal agricultural areas, where appropriate.
(7) 
Establish buffers adjacent to areas of differing land use, when appropriate, or adjacent to highways or utility rights-of-way.
(8) 
Establish forest areas adjacent to existing forests to increase the overall area of contiguous forest cover, when appropriate.
D. 
A person required to conduct afforestation or reforestation under this article shall accomplish it within one year or two growing seasons, whichever is a greater time period, following development project completion.
A. 
The off-site area has a forest stand delineation approved by the Department.
B. 
The final forest conservation plan for the project is submitted for Department approval.
C. 
A final plat showing each off-site area for long-term protection is submitted for Department approval.
D. 
The appropriate long-term binding protective agreement is submitted for approval by the Department.
E. 
Other information the Department determines is necessary to implement this chapter is provided.
A. 
A person retaining forest or conducting afforestation or reforestation pursuant to an approved forest conservation plan shall comply with the requirements of COMAR 08.19.05.
B. 
The County may require an endowment to cover the monitoring and enforcement costs of long-term protective agreements. Endowment funds shall be deposited into a separate account for the sole use of monitoring and enforcing long-term protective agreements and conservation easements.
C. 
Approved final site plans, grading plans and subdivision plans shall indicate those areas subject to long-term protective agreements of conservation easements.
A. 
Charles County shall establish a forest conservation fund.
B. 
If a person subject to this chapter demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Department that requirements for reforestation or afforestation on site or off site cannot be reasonably accomplished, the person shall contribute money, at a rate of $0.25 per square foot of the area of required planting, into the County Forest Conservation Fund.
C. 
Money contributed instead of afforestation or reforestation under this article shall be paid prior to approval of a forest conservation plan.
D. 
The County shall accomplish the reforestation or afforestation for which the money is deposited within 10 years after receipt of the money.
E. 
Money contributed under this article may remain in the account for a period of up to 10 years. At the end of that time, any part that has not been used to meet the afforestation or reforestation requirements shall be returned to the person who provided the money.
F. 
Money deposited in the local forest conservation fund:
(1) 
May be spent on the costs directly related to reforestation and afforestation, including site identification, acquisition and preparation.
(2) 
Shall be deposited in a separate forest conservation fund.
(3) 
May not revert to the general fund.
G. 
Sites for afforestation or reforestation using fund money.
(1) 
Except as provided in Subsection G(2) of this section, the reforestation or afforestation requirement under this article shall occur in the County and watershed in which the project is located.
(2) 
If the reforestation or afforestation requirement cannot be reasonably accomplished in the County and watershed in which the project is located, then the reforestation or afforestation shall occur in the watershed in which the project is located but in a different County.
Tree species used for afforestation or reforestation shall be selected from a list of approved species established by the Department.
A. 
A person required to conduct afforestation or reforestation under this article shall furnish financial security in the form of a bond, an irrevocable letter of credit or other security approved by the Department. The surety shall:
(1) 
Assure that the afforestation, reforestation and the associated maintenance agreement are conducted and maintained in accordance with the approved forest conservation plan.
(2) 
Be in an amount equal to the estimated cost, as determined by the Department, of afforestation and reforestation.
(3) 
Be in a form and of a content approved by the Department.
B. 
If, after two growing seasons, the plantings associated with the afforestation or reforestation meet or exceed the standards of the Maryland Forest Conservation Technical Manual, the amount of the cash bond, letter of credit, surety bond or other security shall be returned or released.
C. 
The County Forest Conservation Program may incorporate the financial security set forth in Subsections A and B or in COMAR 08.19.05.01B.
With the appropriate review and inspection fees, if applicable, the Department, consistent with the requirements of this chapter, shall review for approval any revisions to an approved forest stand delineation.
A. 
The applicant shall provide a written request to the Planning Director containing the following information:
(1) 
The reason for the revision;
(2) 
The location of the easement to be released; and
(3) 
A better than equal retention area proposed location.
B. 
The Planning Director shall review the request and notify the applicant by letter to either:
(1) 
Deny the request with an explanation; or
(2) 
Approve the request and notify the applicant of the additional items needed to complete the revision, which include the following:
(a) 
Fees.
(b) 
Final forest conservation plan and narrative.
(c) 
Release of the approved long-term protection.
(d) 
Implementation of the revised long-term protection.
(e) 
Record plat.
(f) 
Other information the Department determines is necessary to implement this chapter.
A. 
The County thereby adopts the standards provided in the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Conservation Manual.
B. 
Before cutting, clearing, grading or construction begins on a site for which a forest conservation plan is required by this article, the applicant shall demonstrate to the Department that protective devices have been established.
A. 
A person may request a variance from this chapter or the requirements of the Natural Resources Article, §§ 5-1601 through 5-1612, of the Annotated Code of Maryland, by submitting an application for a variance to the Director of Planning and Growth Management or designee.
B. 
The Director of Planning and Growth Management or designee is authorized to grant variances from the strict application of these regulations where the strict application of these regulations or amendments would result in peculiar and unusual practical difficulties to, or hardship upon, a property owner.
C. 
An applicant for a variance shall:
(1) 
Describe the special conditions peculiar to the property which would cause the unusual practical difficulties or unwarranted hardship.
(2) 
Describe how enforcement of these rules will deprive the applicant of rights commonly enjoyed by others in similar areas.
(3) 
Verify that the granting of the variance will not confer on the applicant a special privilege that would be denied to other applicants.
(4) 
Verify that the variance request is not based on conditions or circumstances which are the result of actions by the applicant.
(5) 
Verify that the request does not arise from a condition relating to land or building use, either permitted or nonconforming, on a neighboring property.
(6) 
Verify that the granting of a variance will not adversely affect water quality.
D. 
The Director of Planning and Growth Management or designee shall make written findings that the applicant has met the requirements in Subsection C of this section before the granting of a variance.
E. 
Notice of a request for a variance shall be given by the applicant to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources within 15 days of the County's receipt of a request for a variance.
F. 
There is established by this chapter the right and authority of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to initiate or intervene in an administrative, judicial or other original proceeding or appeal in the state concerning an approval of a variance under the Natural Resources Article, §§ 5-1601 through 5-1612, of the Annotated Code of Maryland, or this chapter.