The Kent County Commissioners were recently denied a motion for a pre merits hearing for a proposed solar farm in Chesterville. According to an article by MyEasternShoreMD.com, the state can pre-empt local zoning laws in public utility matters. In this case,
Mills Branch Solar would see a utility-scale solar farm built on more than 300 acres of land in the county’s Agricultural Zoning District. According to the Kent County Land Use Ordinance, solar fields are limited to 5 acres in that zoning area.
In a motion filed March 25 on behalf of the Kent County Commissioners, Chestertown attorney Mitch Mowell sought a pre merits hearing on Mills Branch Solar’s application and whether the state could pre-empt local zoning laws.
Mowell submitted a trial brief the day before an April 26 motions hearing in Baltimore. His brief includes information from testimony provided a week earlier by Amy Moredock, Kent County’s director of planning, zoning and housing.
“The open, flat expanse of rich fertile soil that blankets the County is a gift of immeasurable value,” Moredock said in submitted testimony. “The County has some of the best farmland in the United States and this combined with the proximity to a variety of markets makes Kent County an ideal location for agribusinesses to thrive.”
She said that maintaining large contiguous farmlands are important to ensuring a thriving agriculture industry. She said preserving the farmland helps minimize conflicts between farmers and their “non-farm neighbors,” cuts down on the need for nuisance regulations and allows for diversified agriculture operations.
“Agriculture is the thread which runs through the County’s economy, culture, history, and everyday experiences. We cannot afford to have this thread unravel. In many areas farmland is considered undeveloped land or an interim use. In Kent County, however, we view agriculture as a permanent and preferred land use,” Moredock said.
To read more about the local zoning case and the denied motion, visit MyEasternShoreMD.com.