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Blog: Let's Just Burn Down the House

Commissioner Dave Roush suggested this past Tuesday that amendments to the County’s 20 year old Landscape Ordinance weren’t sufficient. He wants to burn the dang thing!

Commissioner Dave Roush suggested this past Tuesday that amendments to the County’s 20 year old Landscape Ordinance weren’t sufficient. He told staff and the other Commissioners in attendance that the entire landscape ordinance should be burned.

Roush intimated that he was personally wronged by the County landscape requirements but intentionally didn’t go into the details to avoid embarrassing himself. He’s had a personal grudge against landscaping and me for over 15 years and now he wants to take it out on the whole County in another abuse of the Commissioner’s office that has become so common with these Commissioners.

The story of Mr. Roush and landscaping needs to be told before he lights his
torch to burn down the whole house to avenge his personal gripe.

To set the record straight, the County Landscape Ordinance only affects developers, not individual citizens and their choice to landscape their home or not. The law used to require street trees in new residential developments because bottom-feeder type developers were too cheap to even include this element as foundation block for new communities they were creating. They even fought the requirements for sidewalks and street lights. This Board of Commissioners removed that street tree requirement under the guise of Economic Relief package #1 some months ago. Bottom of the Barrel developers everywhere cheered and were  pleased with the economic relief of having to spend $200 per tree in subdivisions where the homes sell for over $500,000.

For those new to Carroll County I should explain a few basics. Mr. Roush was the General Manager of the Lehigh Cement plant in Union Bridge 15 years ago when Lehigh decided to open a new 400 acre quarry on the very edge of then quiet Town of New Windsor. Citizens there formed an organization called NEWCAP to express their concerns with a quarry project there that would have enormous environmental impacts, not the least of which were noise, dust, and the conversion of a farm landscape into a huge hole.  I happened to be the County’s first Landscape and Forest Conservation Manager at the time. The County had a group of dedicated private professionals write a landscape law for the County two years earlier to mitigate some of the impacts of the development that was arriving in the County at that time. The Landscape law was adopted over the vociferous objections of bottom of the barrel developers objections because of terrible developments springing up in the County like The Greens in Westminster and Cloverdale in Taneytown and shopping centers like the now defunct K Mart plaza in Westminster that sprung up without so much a single tree to mitigate the acres of rooftop and paving.

It was time to herd in the bottom feeders and place some restrictions on them so the County could grow well, not just grow. Landscaping was one of those requirements. Unfortunately, the group of talented citizens that drafted the law did not envision the arrival of a new 400 acre quarry in the county and thus include provisions for appropriate landscaping of such a mammoth project.

Mr. Roush and Lehigh hired a group of geo-engineers to prepare the development plans for the quarry. They knew a lot about extracting rock from the earth to make into cement but little about County and State regulations and they shed not a concern for the impact their project would have on the community. The entire landscaping plan for the 400 acre project amounted to two berms near the entrance to the quarry and acres of the groundcover known as periwinkle. Period. Seeing that this landscape plan was a huge flop, if you could actually call it that, the Board of Commissioners authorized me to work with Lehigh and its engineers to develop a plan that was more appropriate. Mr.Roush was furious. The cost of the landscaping must have been deducted from his annual bonus that year. He’s continued to fume all these years.

Fortunately for New Windsor residents and the County, the geo- engineers went about subcontracting the landscaping plans to a very talented Landscape Architect, Tim Madden, who had experience in landscaping similar quarry openings elsewhere. The plan that evolved included the planting of thousands of trees and shrubs to mitigate the big hole and some of the noise and dust that would come with it. Many berms were constructed from the quarry overburden to shield views. Berms and vegetation are the only tools available to lessen the noise and dust that a quarry operation creates.

While some developers that came and went through Carroll County exceeded the landscape requirements and created comfortable neighborhoods that now offer a substantial street tree environment that is invaluable to the property values in those subdivisions, others fought it tooth and nail but even their subdivisions and shopping centers are better places for Carroll residents today.

So now we have Dave Roush, Commissioner, at hand with a plan of sorts – to burn the landscape ordinance so he can be avenged. Will Carroll Countians who plan on making this place their home for decades to come want this sort of short sighted leadership in the guise of Economic Relief Package #2? Just who is this proposed economic relief for and what are the real motives of a Commissioner who wants to burn down the house?

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Buck Harmon June 15, 2012 at 02:47 PM
He's good for Howard...
Buck Harmon June 15, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Lowering standards ....to allow more profit for developers...that bought the election,...it's the American way... plastic shack development continues...
Judith M. Smith June 15, 2012 at 03:15 PM
At the very beginning of this Board's term, Mz. Fraiser started to force changes under the innocent-sounding "Economic Relief". My question during the public comment section of one of the Open Commissioner meetings was: Economic relief for whom??? This is just a not-so-subtle change in various codes to help developers--NOT private homeowners as was suggested in the recent CCT article. Something as simple as not requiring trees along the streets will detract from the appearance and microclimate of the surrounding area. When trees are mature, they provide shade which lowers the heat level...so it is more than just a matter of "pretty." The prospective homeowners pay for the trees in the final price of their homes...why is it that real estate agents consider trees as a plus in the value of houses? As far as Mr. Roush...I live in Union Bridge and am reminded every day by the lack of concern for the nearby residents of his stewardship of the cement plant. Watch out for his support to burn waste in the plant as a solution to the issue of the joint effort between Carroll County and Frederick to eliminate solid waste.
mary ellis June 16, 2012 at 01:26 PM
When I first heard about Mr. Roush's comment I thought it might be an attempt at humor, maybe a show of frustration at the difficulties the commissioners face between Carroll Countians with legitimate gripes and developers reminding them who put them into office. Thanks, Neil Ridgely, for putting the remark into historical perspective. It's a good thing people who have followed the local government for a long time are still here to set the record straight.
Ross Dangel June 18, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Sadly, these Commissioners with the help of their Director of Land Abuse, will likely move as quickly as possible to adopt these ridiculous changes to development ordinance meant to protect the public. Branding them "economic relief" is just another dressed up lie to hide the fact that these Commissioners are once again putting the interests of a select few above all the citizens they were elected to serve. Assuredly, there will be little public scrutiny and few if any meetings to explain the exact "benefits" or beneficiaries of these changes. Judy Smith is absolutely right that there is no economic impact whatsoever, except to reduce development costs for developers, while increasing costs to homebuyers and affected neighboring businesses to mitigate the impact of new development. Plainly, if things like street trees, sidewalks and landscape buffers are not required, they will not be part of our future developments and everyone suffers (except the developers).

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