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?