MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp was part of a panel that responded to public questions on the siting of large solar facilities at a Caroline County Public Information Session on November 28, 2017. The County held the well-attended session to address general public concerns and questions related to utility scale solar. Currently, the County is in the midst of considering a proposed zoning ordinance for solar facilities.
Besides Knapp, other panelists included representatives from the solar development industry, Maryland Public Service Commission, Maryland Power Plant Research Program, and the Caroline County planning and legal departments. The County Commissioners were also in attendance.
Knapp briefly discussed legislation ( HB 1350) passed during the 2017 Session that gave local governments a greater voice in where utility scale solar facilities should be located within their boundaries. The legislation was a MACo Legislative Initiative. Knapp noted that local authority was not absolute and that the PSC retained the right to preempt local government decisions. Knapp also covered factors that a local government should consider when developing a solar ordinance in order to minimize the likelihood of a PSC preemption and discussed how other counties have addressed solar siting.
Audience members questioned the solar application and approval process at both the state and local levels, how income and property taxes are managed for solar projects, the potential economic benefits and drawbacks of solar projects, actions taken by other counties regarding solar projects, vegetation and setback requirements, how grid capacity works, and who is responsible for dismantling a solar project that has reached the end of its useful life.
Earlier in 2017, the Caroline County Commissioners enacted a 6-month moratorium on utility scale solar development in the County while developing a new zoning ordinance that would cover the siting solar facilities. The moratorium was extended an additional two months until December 31 to allow extra time to finalize the ordinance. The Commissioners plan to formally discuss and potentially take action on the proposed ordinance in December.
The public information session was held in Denton, Maryland, and ran from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm.
Hear more about land use issues, including climate change and the pending State Development Plan, at the 2017 MACo Winter Conference, December 6-8, at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland.
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