At the March 20th Legislative Session, I reintroduced legislation (Bill 13-17) that would regulate large scale solar development in Baltimore County. You can find a copy of the Bill here. I want to emphasize that the use of solar panels for power generation of a residence or a farm as well as on government owned property would continue to be unaffected by this legislation.
The Third District encompasses the vast majority of prime and productive agricultural land in Baltimore County. It also includes the major reservoirs which provide clean water for drinking in the greater Baltimore Metropolitan Area. In turn, it is vital that any legislation regarding solar development be the product of the concerns of the people who would be most affected and the area in which they live.
The present bill is a reflection of those interests. At the same time, I recognize that there is tremendous potential in solar energy as a substitute for traditional fossil fuels. As legislators, we must act in the public interest to strike the right balance.
Over the last 6 months, I have had numerous discussions in public and in private with interested parties – from solar companies, to farmers, from community associations, to environmental groups, from the executive branch to my colleagues on the Council.
As a result of these discussions, I have concluded that this issue needs much more time to be comprehensively studied.
The legislation I introduced on the 20th would allow for this study to take place while preventing the ever present threat of a ‘Solar Gold Rush.’ It asks all interested parties to continue to work on this issue and to formally present further recommendations in the form of amendments to this bill for the Council to consider.
I have been assured that this study will be comprehensive and completed by early fall. Therefore, I will be offering additional amendments to ensure the study’s completion by then and to terminate this bill in January of 2018.
Until such a process can take place, Bill 13-17 calls for comprehensive restrictions regarding large scale solar development. I have written into the current bill very strong protections for Resource Conservation zoned land. These restrictions were the result of listening to the very real concerns of my constituents. These new protections include:
1. Severely limiting maximum size and production of commercial sized solar facilities
2. Limiting solar facilities to particular RC zones and Business and manufacturing zones
3. Bans of commercial solar placement on prime and productive soil, in designated rural legacy areas, historic districts, agricultural and environmental easements, and designated landmarks
4. Approval of solar projects from surrounding property owners
5. Certified mail notices of any pending public hearing to adjoining property owners and community associations
6. Solar facilities in some RC areas counting as one development right
7. Requirements for solar panel removal, and land restoration
The work session for this bill will take place on Tuesday, April 11th at 2pm in the Council Conference Room.
I strongly encourage community members and affected residents to show up and testify for this Work Session.
We must take the proper time to get this right. This temporary piece of legislation allows for this. At stake is the preservation of prime and productive agricultural land and our drinking water. For the time being, I believe this bill will protect both.
I encourage you to contact the Council to express your strong support for this bill’s passage.