New Rules for Baltimore County’s Solar Farms?

Baltimore County Council Member Wade Kach is leading an effort to set restrictions on rural solar farms as more and more farmers become interested in setting up solar panels instead of using their land for crops.

The Baltimore Sun article states,

“I want to get something in place that is reasonable, rational and as good as we can make it,” said County Councilman Wade Kach, a Cockeysville Republican, who represents the northern part of the county and is leading the effort.

Kach proposed a measure this month that would limit solar installations in rural areas to no more than 20 acres, or 50 percent of the property — whichever is less. The bill also would regulate how close panels can be to the property line, how tall they could be, and how much landscaping and fencing would be required.

Solar farms would not be allowed on properties that are enrolled in agricultural preservation programs, located in historic districts or that have preservation easements that limit development.

His bill will face a public hearing Jan. 10, and a vote could be held Jan. 17.

Some jurisdictions, including Howard County, have approved measures to allow solar farms on agricultural preservation land. But Kach said he thinks that’s not a good idea, because tax dollars have been invested in programs to preserve that land in farming.

“The taxpayers have paid. Their money has been used,” Kach said.

Other rural property owners in the county who want to install solar arrays would need to win approval from a county administrative judge. They’d have to show they attempted to locate panels in areas that don’t degrade scenic views and don’t include “prime and productive agricultural soil.”

The bill would not apply to rural residents who install only enough panels to power their own home or farm, or to solar projects on government land.

Kach began working to regulate solar farms after property owners in his district started applying to build them. So far, Baltimore County has treated those applications as requests to build public utilities. None have been approved yet or built, but several are in the review process.

MACo has adopted “Energy Facility Siting” as one of its 2017 legislative initiatives, to retain a local role in balancing these various land use questions.