A Baltimore Sun article (2019-01-22) reported that Baltimore County Council Member Wade Kach has withdrawn a proposed bill that would have imposed a nine-month moratorium on solar projects on rural land.
In the article, Kach stated that he felt a moratorium was appropriate to allow the study how large-scale solar projects affected farmland and property values. The article noted many of the proposed large-scale solar projects in Baltimore County would be located in Kach’s rural district.
However, Kach withdrew the bill after determining he lacked sufficient support from other council members, who were concerned about the moratorium’s retroactive nature and the negative effects it could have on solar projects already in the pipeline.
Many Maryland counties are wrestling with the appropriate zoning for large-scale facilities, which can target prime farmland and open space. The County approved legislation in 2017 covering solar development on farmland. Subsequently, the County’s planning board recommended that large-scale solar projects should be targeted towards commercial and manufacturing zones and not on productive farmland. Advocates opposed the moratorium legislation argued that the 2017 regulations provide sufficient protection of farms.
From the article:
“I’m surprised that the council people didn’t really want to consider having a study,” [Lynne Jones of the Sparks-Glencoe Community Planning Council] said after the meeting Tuesday. “There are so many unknowns about this. … I really think this is doing a huge disservice to the farm community, because this is taking farmland out of food production.” …
“I believe that when people come to Baltimore County to do business, no matter what that business is, they want certainty before they make any type of investment,” Councilwoman [and moratorium opponent] Cathy Bevins, a Middle River Democrat, said at the meeting last week.
The article noted that Council Member David Marks supported involving the County’s Agricultural Land Preservation Advisory Board in the development of future solar projects.
MACo is supportive of solar energy development but has stressed the importance of local zoning and siting requirements. MACo recognizes that there needs to be a mix of rooftop, community, and utility-scale solar projects to meet Maryland’s renewable energy goals and has established a prioritization of solar projects, starting with rooftop solar, moving to grayfield (parking lot, warehouse rooftop) and brownfield development, and finally to open space zoned by local governments. MACo is concerned about the protection of prime farmland, forested lands, critical areas and wetlands, and areas of cultural/historical importance.