It would also cover large solar facilities on agricultural lands.
Frederick, Md (KM). There was a lot of support expressed Tuesday night during a public hearing before the Frederick County Council on a bill to regulate solar facilities. Many citizens who spoke said allowing commercial solar facilities to be placed on agricultural land would keep those properties in farming, and provide some extra income for farmers.
“We believe the bill was a good compromise for everyone involved, and helps keep the best farmland for agricultural production,” said Tom Mullinex, the chairman of the Agribusiness Development Council, who was speaking for the group..
The legislation would allow solar facilities in all zoning districts as an accessory use. It would also permit commercial solar facilities in agricultural lands as a floating zone. The area set aside for the solar facility would have a minimum size of 10-acres, but it could not exceed 750-acres. It may not have an agricultural easement or located in a Priority Preservation Areas or Rural Legacy. areas.They cannot be located on prime farmland identified by the US Department of Agriculture, and shall not exceed the lesser of 10% of the tract’s or tracts tillage acreage or 75-acres in size. If the solar facility ceases operations or is disconnected from the grid for a period of six months, the approval will terminate, and the owner will have 90-days after that to remove it.
Sam Rupp, a 5th generation farmer, said this bill will let farmers use parts of their properties for solar facilities, and earn some extra money. “Some farmers are trying to be diversified and one of them is to go solar energy. And I think that’s a really good idea for some of those folks to be able to diversity their income. Therefore, I support your bill,” he said.
“I think this bill is coming out of the gate as a good compromise And does a good job protecting productive agland,” said Lisa Gaber.
The provisions would not apply to commercial solar facilities which have already received a Certificate of Public Interest, Convenience and Necessity from the Maryland Public Service Commission, and site plan approval from the County Planning Commission. Terry Davis of Keymar supports this bill, but not the “grandfathering” provision. “At the last meeting, I heard concerns from Council members about the expense that these people have put forth. They did this at their own risk. They knew what they were getting into. They knew what their opposition was. They knew what the chances were. They knew what was going to happen,” she said.
The Council took no action on the bill Tuesday night.
By Kevin McManus