City councilman questions waiving fee for developer

October 02, 2005|By ANDREW SCHOTZ


Hagerstown City Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire has questioned whether the city can waive a $140,000 fine for a developer's alleged clear-cutting violation.

In addition, the city could seek $1,000 per day in civil penalties, Zoning Administrator Stephen R. Bockmiller wrote in a letter to developer Brad Fulton.

Mayor Richard F. Trump said Wednesday that he prefers a more conciliatory approach, working out a deal with the developer.

"To force the letter of the law and annoy or perturb or create a bad environment between a developer and the city, to me doesn't make sense," Trump said. "I'd rather go to the developer and say, 'Hey, listen, Sunshine Rotary Club's going to put 16 grand into a fountain down in the new park down there, the University Park. Would you like to help us out? Can you help us out with that?'"


Bockmiller's Aug. 31 letter says that most of the 6.44-acre site, at Salem Avenue and Broadfording Road, has been cleared.

"This property, which was predominantly wooded, has had most of its forest cover stripped," the letter says.

The city ordinance says a developer who doesn't submit a forest conservation plan in advance shall be fined.

Instead, Bockmiller's letter asks Fulton, "in the spirit of cooperation and bringing the property into compliance," to submit a plan to preserve what's left and to plant trees - or else be fined.

Fulton, a vice president for A.C.&T. Co., which owns gas stations and convenience stores, did not return a message left at his office on Thursday and another left for him on Friday.

Although A.C.&T. has not submitted a site plan for development, the project is a convenience store, City Planning Director Kathleen Maher said.

The city's ordinance says a person who doesn't comply with the forest conservation plan "shall be assessed by the City of Hagerstown the penalty of $0.50 per square foot of the area found to be in noncompliance with required forest conservation."

For 6.44 acres, the fine would be $140,263.20, Bockmiller's letter says.

Since the city's ordinance is modeled after a state ordinance and says "shall" instead of "may," Aleshire has questioned whether the city can waive the fine.

Aleshire said he wants to hear the answer before commenting on whether the city should waive the fine.

Maher said Thursday that the Planning Department has asked the city attorney for an opinion.

"I'm a huge proponent of ensuring the forest conservation ordinance and the spirit of that ordinance is upheld," Aleshire said.

The ordinance allows the city, in certain cases, to collect 10 cents per square foot "in lieu of" planting new trees.

Aleshire said he generally opposes that for residential development.

"I'm wary of allowing developers to pay the 'fee in lieu of' so they can cram more houses onto sites they are developing," he said.

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