Responsibly Siting Solar in the Ag Reserve

Update :Your voice mattered! on 1/26 the Council voted to protect soils and keep solar arrays as a conditional use (adding more protections for siting).  Hats off to you for taking action! Full update here.

Thanks to the many hundreds of local residents that took action, ZTA 20-01 was granted a work group (in which MCA took part) to suggest amendments. After four zoom sessions, the Council declined to host more. MCA leapt into the gap to host the final public meeting so the work group could complete the work they were asked to do.

The Good News: After 5 work sessions, research, and hearing the concerns of the solar in AR supporters, the Agricultural Reserve Stakeholders have crafted recommendations for moving forward. Work group members  produced three reports summarizing the positions of the pro-ZTA industry group, the Reserve stakeholders and a few points of agreement in a joint report. All these reports can be found here.

A new phase now begins. We are attempting to meet with Councilmembers in advance of committee hearings and a council vote. We need your voice again to support our amendments that balance energy generation, agriculture and natural resources.

Proponents of the ZTA are still insisting that opening the Reserve to commercial solar will not impact agriculture/ forests / water quality.

With solar companies offering landowners 10-25 times the $/acre as farmers this is simply not accurate.

When the Poolesville Array cleared 3 acres of forest to site a 6 acre array, this is simply not accurate.  

When arrays are allowed on up to 15% slopes - a recipe for erosion into streams- this is simply not accurate.

If the primacy of agriculture and resource protection in the Ag Reserve is to be maintained, solar generation must be a conditional use.

From the zoning code, conditional uses that need to undergo a hearing that includes a forest conservation plan include cell and radio towers, pipelines, other public utilities, etc. Large scale solar falls into this category quite elegantly. Conditional use is a pathway to site solar in the Reserve legally under the master plan. (More on conditional v. limited use here)

Your voice made a difference - however proponents of the ZTA are still insisting that this proposal must go forward as written. Please write the council today to support solar as a conditional use before they vote on January 26th!

Many Thanks,

Caroline Taylor
Executive Director
Montgomery Countryside Alliance

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