Community Solar Zoning Text Amendment

On May 13, 2021, the Board of County Commissioners adopted an amendment to the Carroll County Zoning Code, Chapter 158, Solar Energy Generating Systems, to allow community solar energy generating systems (CSEGS) on remaining portions of five acres or greater in the Agricultural District.  The ordinance was effective on May 19, 2021. 

The zoning requirements strive to balance the opportunities and common concerns:

  • Expanding community solar opportunities,
  • Protecting farmland and the County’s investment in agricultural land preservation,
  • Co-locating with agricultural use,
  • Addressing common concerns with solar in agricultural uses, and
  • Discouraging the need for State mandates regarding siting of solar facilities.

Booklet

The Carroll County Community Solar Zoning Text Amendment booklet defines community solar, describes the requirements of the amendment, shares intentions for certain requirements, reviews the adoption process, directs the reader to resources for more information, and more. 

Carroll County Community Solar Zoning Text Amendment Outreach Booklet

 

Eligible Properties

CSEGSs are permitted on remaining portions of five acres or greater in size in the Agricultural District that existed as of July 1, 2020 (recorded plat). In the Agricultural District, remaining portions are the land remaining after residential subdivision lots have been created from a legally established parcel of land through the subdivision process.  [Carroll County Zoning §158.002 and Development and Subdivision of Land §155.091]  The map below is provided for guidance purposes only and shows where the eligible remaining portions may be located.  Remaining portion status must be verified prior to submitting a site plan.

Map of Potentially Eligible Properties

 

Permanent Conservation Easement

A permanent conservation easement is required on the rest of the property not developed for community solar facilities and associated infrastructure.  Click on the draft sample conservation easement template for information on what the easement agreement is likely to include.  This is just a sample.  Each actual, individual easement will be prepared by the county staff following site plan approval by the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission.  

Community Solar Sample Conservation Easement Template

 

Amendment Documents

See below for useful links related to the adopted amendment.

 

Maryland CSEGS Pilot Program

The Maryland General Assembly passed legislation (Senate Bill 398/House Bill 1087) in 2015 to allow community solar projects (known as “community solar energy generating systems” or CSEGS) as part of a pilot study, which currently ends in 2024.  Among other things, the State’s community solar pilot program is intended to increase access to solar energy, particularly for residents and small businesses.

Overview of Carroll County CSEGS Zoning Requirements

Below is an overview of the primary zoning requirements for CSEGSs.  See §158.153(E) Community Solar Energy Generating Systems, in Agricultural District (changes coming soon) or the final text of the adopted zoning amendment (see link above) for full details and requirements.

 

  • Definition: Definition given in Maryland Annotated Code, Public Utilities Article, § 7-306.2 as of July 1, 2020.
  • Location:
    • Principal permitted on remaining portions of five acres or greater in “A” Agricultural Zoning District.
    • 20-acre maximum for solar usage.
    • Only existing remaining portions with plats recorded as of July 1, 2020, are eligible. 
  • Easement: Requires permanent easement extinguishing any additional residential and non-agricultural development on remaining land of five acres or greater to be granted to County upon installation of solar facility. 
  • Site Plan: Requires Planning & Zoning Commission review and approval. 
  • Environmental Resources:
    • No clearing of forested areas.
    • Not located within or impede stream buffer, floodplain, or wetland. 
  • Ag Co-Location: Requires…
    • Maryland’s Solar Generation Facilities Pollinator-Friendly Designation, and/or
    • Planted, managed, and maintained for grazing of farm animals, apiaries (beekeeping), or crops.
    • Property owner responsible to control and suppress noxious weeds and invasive plants on site and prevent spread to surrounding farmland. 
  • Landscaped Buffer:
    • Required to provide year-round screening of the CSEGS from residential uses on contiguous properties and public rights-of-way.
    • May incorporate plantings and/or berms that blend in with the natural landscape.
    • May be placed within the setback.
    • Any perimeter fencing to be inside of landscaped buffer. 
  • Bulk & Height Requirements:
    • Minimum setback = 40 feet from property line and adjoining property lines for infrastructure and equipment.
    • Maximum height = 15 feet above existing grade. 
  • Abandonment & Decommissioning: Decommissioning plan required. 
    • Solar panels not in use for 180 consecutive days must be decommissioned and removed.
    • Requires a public works agreement (PWA) with County and bond/guaranty to ensure proper decommissioning and funding for removal.

Factors That Affect Suitability

Just because a parcel is eligible does not mean it is suitable for CSEGS development. There are many other factors that affect suitability.  Generally, the solar developer will assess a property and the ability or capacity of the distribution lines (based on coordination with the utility company) to determine if a property is a good fit based on these factors.  Some of these factors include (but are not limited to):

  • Proximity to three-phase distribution lines,
  • Capacity of the distribution lines,
  • Site constraints, such as slopes, sun exposure, natural resources, etc.,
  • Cost,
  • Maryland Public Service Commission approval, and
  • Utility company approval.

State policy also impacts the extent of solar development that may occur.  Some of these policies (as of May 2021) include:

  • A solar project cannot adjoin another solar project or cross parcel lines;
  • A parcel cannot be subdivided to build solar if it has been subdivided within the past five years; and
  • The maximum capacity of a community solar project is two (2) Megawatts.

 

Meetings and Materials during Review and Adoption Process

 

For More Information Related to Community Solar in Carroll County

Please check the following guide to determine who to contact for more information on a specific topic related to community solar.  

 

 

Topic

Person to Contact

Email

Phone

Community Solar Zoning Text Amendment

Brenda Dinne

Special Projects Coordinator

Land & Resource Management

bdinne@carrollcountymd.gov

410-386-2140

Specifics Regarding Zoning Code

Jay Voight

Zoning Administrator

jvoight@carrollcountymd.gov OR cczoning@carrollcountymd.gov

410-386-2980

Site Plan Process & Approvals OR

Verify Remaining Portions

Laura Matyas

Bureau Chief

Development Review

lmatyas@carrollcountymd.gov OR

DevelopmentCoordinators@carrollcountymd.gov

410-386-2722

Conservation Easement

JP Smith

Program Manager

AG Land Manager

jsmith@carrollcountymd.gov OR

Carrollagpres@carrollcountymd.gov

410-386-2214

Permits for Solar Facilities

Carroll County Permits & Inspections Bureau

PermitsInquiry@carrollcountymd.gov

410-386-2674

Environmental Advisory Council

Brenda Dinne

Secretary/Staff Liaison

Environmental Advisory Council

bdinne@carrollcountymd.gov OR eac@carrollcountymd.gov

410-386-2140 OR

410-386-2506

 

 

For more information on community solar energy generating systems (CSEGSs) in Carroll County, please check out the following information provided on the Carroll County Environmental Advisory Council’s (EAC) Community Solar webpage

If you have additional questions, you may contact Brenda Dinne (Land & Resource Management Special Projects Coordinator) by email at bdinne@carrollcountymd.gov or by phone at 410-386-2140.