Council Hears Testimony On Solar Panels, Tasting Rooms

There are still some unresolved issues with both.


Frederick, Md (KM) Concerns about loss of farmland and scenic views were some of the issues brought up by citizens on Tuesday during a hearing before the Frederick County Council. The panel is considering a bill to regulate the placement of large solar arrays in the county.

These facilities are allowed on properties zoned industrial. The legislation would permit them on agricultural land as a floating zone. That land use classification would “float”: above the property, and is usually removed when that use ends for that parcel. Also, the panels on agricultural property would have to take up no more than 10% of the tillable acreage, or several contiguous properties up to 75-acres. These arrays could not be located on parcels that are considered prime farmland by the US Department of Agriculture.

“I feel that large scale solar arrays on agricultural zoned land is not a benefit to most farmers,” said Carroll Crum from Keymar. “It will not preserve valuable farmland.”

Doris Crum, also of Keymar, said they could affect property values. “I do believe there will be a decrease in property values  if the solar arrays can be seen from a neighboring residence,” she said.
Two large solar arrays are planned for Frederick County: one would be a 20-megawatt solar array on 170-acres of land along Legore Road near Woodsboro; a second one is proposed for property along Old Frederick Road near Thurmont.

Linda Thomas of New Midway said these large projects gobble up a lot of farmland. “I am a strong supporter of all forms of renewable energy. However, I do not like what they are trying to do to Frederick County,:” she said. “These companies are in business to make profits for themselves. They’re not there for us.”

The bill is sponsored by Council Vice President MC Keegan-Ayer, and co-sponsored by Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater.

The Council also took testimony on legislation to allow limited tasting rooms as an accessory use for farm distilleries, breweries and wineries.. The one provision in the bill would allow these farms to offer outside amplified music generated a lot of testimony. The music would heard from accessory sites such as patios and decks. It already allows this type of entertainment to take place indoors. Also, the size of the tasting rooms could be no larger than 1500 square feet, which does not include rest rooms, food preparation and storage areas.

The proposed legislation says the hours of operation for the outdoor amplified music will be defined in the zoning certificate issued to the applicant. But that certificate could be revoked if the music is heard off of the property, or violates the county’s noise ordinance.


“You are going to have headaches by having amplified music affecting neighbors. And it’s going to affect their property values because whose going to buy a property if every Friday, Saturday and Sunday there’s amplified music coming in their windows,” said Doug Kaplin.


But Tom Barse, who operates Milkhouse Brewery in Mount Airy, said the music is needed to attract customers. “These new businesses need to be able to have amplified outdoor music to draw people to their establishments so they can survive in this county,” he said.


The County Council took no action on either bill.


By Kevin McManus