AmericanFarm.com

Neighbor fights solar project with citizen group

By BRUCE HOTCHKISS
Senior Editor

EAST NEW MARKET, Md. (Feb. 28, 2017) — Should SunneeBee Solar, a massive North Dorchester solar energy installation advanced by One Energy Renewables, ultimately be rejected, it would be, in part, because a 46-year-old Linkwood woman refused to witness the despoliation of the farm fields in her native Dorchester County.
The project, located south of the intersection of MD Route 392 and Linkwood Road in East New Market, Md. would consume 166 acres of farmland with thousands of 13-foot solar panels.
Tracy Whitby-Fairall, who lives in a cluster of 17 homes on Linkwood Road, had no intention of allowing a field of solar panels to occupy the viewscape out of her front room windows.
Tracy, president of the Linkwood Fire Department and senior vice president of the Queenstown Bank, heads up the North Dorchester Neighborhood Coalition a citizen group drawn together to oppose the lease by One Energy of the former Idle Bee Farm of Bill and Irene Layton.
The property — about 400 acres all told, what would not be under solar panels is woods — is now owned by Blair and Kim Bisker.
Bisker is Mrs. Layton’s granddaughter.
Among the most potent arguments advanced by NDNC, focuses in the county planning code drafted originally in 1991 and then given another look early in the new century. In that instance, according to Tracy who searched the minutes of the meeting, two representatives of One Energy were on hand and consulted on the provisions of the document.
Nowhere in the code, Tracy said, is solar mentioned but the planners said specifically that the agricultural character and heritage of North Dorchester was to be preserved
A second hearing on the project before the Dorchester County Planning Appeals Board was held last Thursday.
After another 2 1/2 hours of testimony, the Appeals Board again failed to announce its decision, holding it for further study.
Elsewhere amid the scores of pending solar applications before the Maryland Public Utilities Commission are two proposed projects being advanced by a firm called Urban Grid, which is maintaining an office in Stevensville,
Urban Grid has filed application for a solar array on Morganec Road on the outskirts of Chestertown. It is scheduled for a preliminary hearing March 24 before the PUC.
The project involves 343 fenced acres owned by the Fair Promise Farm family limited partnership to produce 55.7 megawatts of power. The acreage, according to papers filed in the application, has been farmed for “several decades.”
Another Urban Grid application involves the Jones Farm Lane Solar project near Millington in Queen Anne’s County.
The project would consume three parcels totaling 337 acres and would require the installation of 205,996 solar panels.
Also, in Annapolis last Tuesday, a measure entitled “Right to Solar Farm Acr” was pulled off the docket just prior to its scheduled hearing before the House Committee on the Environment and Transportation.
The bill would allow solar development on lands otherwise protected by a conservation or ag land preservation easement
It was introduced by Del. Kumar Barve, a Montgomery County lawmaker. He was joined by eight other House members, all of them from either Montgomery, Prince George’s or Baltimore counties.
Why Barve pulled the bill was not immediately known.