This Week’s Headlines
Sunnee Bee Solar bid pulled in Dorchester
By BRUCE HOTCHKISS
(April 4, 2017) The application by a Seattle firm, to install a sprawling solar power project on Dorchester County farmland, has been withdrawn.
One Energy Renewables, which had been pursuing the project known as Sunnee Bee Solar, for some five years, notified Dorchester County officials by letter last week that they had called off the application.
The letter confirmed that One Energy had become discouraged when the county rejected a PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) offer, to pay Dorchester $2.3 million over 25 to 30 years in lieu of taxes on the project, and the county’s subsequent decision to tax the solar equipment at half its value.
The letter to Catherine McCulley, clerk to the Dorchester County Board of Appeals, from Ryan Showalter, One Energy attorney, dated March 28, read in part:
“The Board’s record in this matter contains a Payment In Lieu of Taxes, or PILOT, proposal that Sunnee Bee Solar submitted to the county the afternoon of Feb. 22.
“The county council rejected the proposal without any discussion, feedback or negotiation and promptly thereafter introducing Bill No. 2017-2, which would impose county personal property taxes on equipment used for the generation of electricity at 50 percent of its value.
“The imposition of such a tax compromises the economic viability of the project to such an extent that continued effort without re-evaluation of the economics and efficiencies of the project would neither be a prudent use of Sunnee Bee Solar’s resources, nor a fair imposition on the time of the county staff, legal counsel, Board members, and concerned members for the public, who presumably would participate in the hearing scheduled for April 13.”
Although the North Dorchester Neighborhood Coalition, the citizen force which mounted opposition to Sunneee Bee under the leadership of Tracy Whitby-Fairall, hailed the verdict, there was some discomfort in the hint that their battle might not yet be over.
Showalter’s letter noted, interestingly, that the “applicant may not file another application for substantially the same proposal on the same premises for one year from the date of this letter” and then added that Sunnee Bee Solar “remains interested in the site of this project, and in Dorchester County in general.”
Whitby-Fairall said that an official of One Energy had “reached out” to one of the NDNA members, seeking to get members of the coalition together at some point, to informally discuss the Sunnee Bee project.
Sunnee Bee Solar targeted three parcels of farmland located south of the intersection of MD Route 392 and Linkwood Road in East New Market and would have occupied approximately 180 acres of the three larger properties that total about 415 acres.
Two Sunnee Bee hearings had been held before Dorchester’s Planning and Zoning Board. A third, slated for April 13 has been cancelled.