Commercial Solar Facilities in the Third District of Baltimore County
We’d like to start by saying that we enjoy clean alternative energy and understand the necessity of using it. Seeing solar panels installed on rooftops, parking lots and on commercial buildings is a sight we welcome. It’s a positive start in order to decrease our dependency on fossil fuels and retain clean air and water resources.
We’d like to share this information in order to help clear up some misconceptions about proposed solar facilities in the HZ. These are not necessarily NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) projects; we, along with other interested community members/leaders, been studying this industrial use on prime and productive farmland for the past 2 1/2 years, since before the hastily drafted solar bill # 37-17 was enacted. Most of us do not live near one these proposed facilities, but the possibility of local real estate values decreasing in each area is apparent. We must remember that landowner rights work for more than a particular site owner, as neighboring residents also have rights, especially if their property values decrease or storm water run-off is directed onto their property.
What we see is an attempt from out-of-state developers to ‘land grab’ at an alarming rate. Since other adjoining counties do NOT permit this type of special exception in their jurisdictions, it befell on us in the third Councilmatic district to absorb the brunt of these BGE community pilot projects. Since we have most of the farmland in the county and the solar bill states for now that there is a cap of 10 developments in each district (due to earlier cases we have 13!), we’ve reached capacity up here for the 1st year BGE pilot program, whereas there are only several other proposals, if any, in the other 6 districts. For the past 24 months we’ve actively reached out to help research and educate (this is a very complicated issue with many facets to consider) our representatives in Annapolis, our County Council along with our county Planning Board, which recommended to County Council (for the solar bill review, which the Council ended up refusing to acknowledge) that it should:
* deny facilities on prime and productive soils;
* direct these to business and manufacturing zones, brownfields, parking lots and rooftops;
* further in-depth studies are needed;
* these should NOT be detrimental to scenic routes or views;
* and more localized criteria is needed for appropriate siting of facilities.
Also, the Baltimore County Farm Bureau mirrored the opposition of solar facilities on prime and productive land.
There are other groups (solar industries mainly) that wish to lift the limit of 10 facilities so that there would be unlimited solar development in just our 3rd district. This would mean that lands allowed as special exceptions would not only be in solar arrays for up to 40-year leases, but once these Special Exceptions are permitted the land could possibly remain with that condition forever. That’s when other industrial uses could nose onto our farmlands. As of now, there cannot be townhouses, housing developments, malls or other non-agricultural growth on our RC2 areas (1 house per 50 acres) but that probably won’t be the case after these facilities are dismantled. Imagine what our viewsheds will be like then!
As far as flooding is concerned, so far none of the solar cases that are in litigation have a storm water management plan in place; 1 farm would increase their forest buffer area but that’s it so far. You’ve seen the devastation to roads and homes recently with our summer storms; 1″ of rain on 8-9,000- 3′ X 7′ panels could create 90,000 gal of runoff. Add this amount to already wet soils and overflowing waterways and that will give you an idea as to what further damage would very likely occur. We are NOT on public water and sewerage above the Urban-Rural-Demarcation-Line (URDL); surrounding properties would take the brunt of increased flooding, compromising our already polluted water systems. Our streams and reservoirs are used for drinking water to almost 2 million people in Baltimore and surrounding areas and are home to federally protected Brook trout.
Another conflict of this bill, which was supposed to financially help our farmers, is that only 2 of these proposed sites is farmed by the landowner. These developments take land away from farmers, thus creating a hardship for them and their families. Not only will they have to find more fields for growing crops, but since land is finite, the price for leasing would increase due to supply and demand. Farmland is the cheapest land for these solar companies to lease, that’s why they’ve chosen our local fields. There’s also no guarantee that once the panels have reached their lifespan that they’ll be removed with solar money (all LLC’s), thus likely leaving the landowner and Balto. Co. with the dismantling costs, even though there’s a suggestion of a bond in the bill.
We need further studies to determine the extent of impacts to our farmlands, neighboring properties, forests and wetlands before such facilities could be built. We need to continue conversations with other states and counties that have had solar arrays in place for the past several years in order to understand what works and what doesn’t. We need a moratorium placed on all these large, land mounted solar arrays, including those in the legal pipeline, in order to make better decisions to protect the future health of all our communities in Balto County.
If you feel this solar bill is not in your best interest and you’d like to help make a difference please contact all of our county council members: www.baltimorecountymd.gov/countycouncil, and the county executive firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell them your concerns about how this industrial use could affect you and your community well into the future.
We need to be smart from the start in order to work with our public servants so they can make educated, well thought out decisions for our upcoming generations. We need solar and clean energy, just not in critical, environmentally protected areas, especially with prime and productive soils. These soils are precious and finite and cannot be moved or replicated, yet solar facilities can be erected almost anywhere.
List of actions for solar hearings in the 3rd Dist for 2019:
Middletown Rd, Freeland: Board of Appeals deliberation: Jan 24, 9 AM
Gerner property, 15637 York Rd, Sparks: Board of Appeals deliberation: Feb19, 9 AM
14466 Green Rd, Kingsville: Board of Appeals, Days 3 & 4: Feb 26 & 27, 9 AM
1139 Monkton Rd, Monkton: Board of Appeals deliberation: March 5, 9 AM
632 Freeland Rd, Freeland: Board of Appeals deliberation: March 7, 9 AM
19735 Graystone Rd, Phillips property, White Hall: Remanded back to Administrative Law Judge level, no date yet.
Everyone is welcome to attend these hearings at The Jefferson Building, Room 206, 105 West Chesapeake Avenue Towson, Maryland 21204. Deliberations usually last about an hour. BoA Hearings usually start at 9 AM; if you park in the garages behind this building you won’t have to run out and feed your meter, as these hearings can last into late afternoon.
If you live near any of these properties and wish to object to this kind of industrial/commercial development in your neighborhood, please contact us.
If you’d like to help us by sending a much needed donation for our legal expenses, please select the donate button below and pay with Paypal or mail us a check with the name of a specific solar project you wish to support on the memo line (choose one: Graystone, Gerner, Monkton, 20920 Old York Road or 21138 Old York Road) -or- if you wish to support all solar projects, write “solar, all projects” in the memo area, and mail to SGCPC, PO Box 937, Sparks, MD, 21152