Frederick County Council Debates New Solar Array Siting Requirements

A Frederick News-Post article (2016-05-24) reported that the Frederick County Council is working on new regulations that will define when solar arrays may be permitted on industrial land. In response to an increase in large solar array applications, Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner issued a executive array temporarily banning them until July 15 in order to give the county time to create regulations about where and how they can be sited. According to the article, the Council considered two proposals from the Planning and Permitting Division. Among the issues considered by the Council was whether to allow the arrays on industrial and/or agricultural land, a proposed 75-acre size limit for the arrays, a perimeter fencing requirement, removal requirements, and the county’s taxing of such facilities. From the article:

Councilman Tony Chmelik said the focus should be on maximizing farmers’ use of their land while balancing neighbors’ concerns about how arrays could change the agricultural landscape. …

Chmelik said the 75-acre maximum is unnecessary, particularly if a landowner can place solar panels to limit their public visibility. …

Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater, a Democrat, said [perimeter] fences could exacerbate a primary public concern about solar arrays — visual clutter.

Councilman Billy Shreve, a Republican, said he wants the county to consider changing a requirement that businesses promise money to remove panels from leased land if arrays are no longer functional. He was concerned the proposed condition would not cover the full cost of removal, which could be significantly higher decades in the future.

Council members also said they want to consider changes to the county’s tax policy for solar arrays, which are considered nongovernmental utilities.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, Kent County is currently dealing with a large proposed solar array and a preliminary holding that is part of the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) oversight process has called into question whether local government land use requirements apply to such facilities or whether they are preempted by the PSC.

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