Judge Halts Abingdon Woods Development Citing Forest Conservation Concerns


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ABINGDON - In a landmark decision, a Harford County Circuit Court judge has upheld the claims of the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation against Harford County and Abingdon Woods development project's developers.

Judge Diane Adkins-Tobin asserted that there was a lack of substantiation for bypassing state-mandated Forest Conservation Act provisions to cut down 49 mature trees. According to the ruling, the county's Planning and Zoning Department now has an obligation to clarify the reasons for permitting the removal of significant mature trees. The case will now return to the Planning and Zoning Department to reexamine why it was allowed a waiver for tree removal.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, representing the residents of Abingdon Woods, argued that state laws necessitate developers to protect mature trees unless these impede the property owners' commonly enjoyed rights.

The judge agreed that Harford County failed to prove that the tree preservation requirement infringed the developer's property rights.

Paul Smail, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's director of litigation, lauded the decision in a news release, stating that it "sends a message to counties and developers that there must be a clear factual basis for granting waivers from the state's requirements to protect forested land."

Harford County Public Works initiated a halt to the Abingdon Woods project in January due to an invalid forest conservation plan.

The lawsuit by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which began in January 2020, contested the legitimacy of the project's forest conservation plan.

Harford County Executive Bob Cassilly expressed concerns about the project's forest conservation plan after taking office last year, a plan approved by his predecessor, Barry Glassman.

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