On June 8, 2016, the Baltimore County Board of Appeals reversed a prior decision of the Baltimore County Administrative Law Judge in the case of a Parkton couple charged with violating Baltimore County’s Forest Conservation Regulations.In October 2015, Michael and Jessica Adams received a violation and were ordered to pay a $16,535 fine after having trees removed from their property by a licensed forestry service they located on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website. The Adams hired logger Paul Hamby, who agreed to remove 15 trees deemed hazardous by their insurance inspector. He also told the couple he would remove an additional 15 trees to sell, thus reducing the costs the Adams would pay for removing the first 15 trees.A County inspector determined that Hamby, from April – June 2015, cleared approximately 66 large trees covering 41,337 sq. ft. from the Adams’ property and that the Adams violated the County’s Forest Conservation Regulations. The County issued a citation to the Adams for failing to file a Forestry Declaration of Intent claiming an exemption.At a hearing in March 2016, Baltimore County Administrative Law Judge Lawrence M. Stahl upheld the penalties but decreased their fine to $8,000.Lawrence E. Schmidt, a partner with Smith, Gildea & Schmidt who represents the homeowners, filed an appeal with the Baltimore County Board of Appeals and successfully argued that his clients were improperly charged by the County and that there was no violation of the Regulations. An exemption was not available to them since the disturbance area exceeded more than 40,000 sq. ft., so there was nothing they could do to be in compliance of the Baltimore County Code.“My clients tried to do the right thing and put their faith in a contractor whom they believed was approved by DNR and they ended up being taken advantage of. They are extremely happy that the Board of Appeals ruled in their favor,” said Schmidt.“Unfortunately, this is an instance where an inspector in the Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability was interpreting and enforcing laws in an arbitrary fashion. When you have the inspector who is not a lawyer trying to interpret the law, citizens can be wrongfully charged, wasting a lot of time and taxpayers’ money. I’m just glad that the Adams’ case has been resolved and they can put this behind them,” he said.
Hunt Valley – Cockeysville Patch