Community Solar Zoning Text Amendment
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 2022. Among other things, the State’s community solar pilot program is intended to increase access to solar energy, particularly for residents and small businesses.
In spring 2020, the Board of County Commissioners (the “Board) directed staff to develop a proposal for a zoning text amendment that would expand opportunities for community solar development in Carroll County. Land & Resource Management staff are developing a “pilot” program to allow community solar projects in the Agricultural district. A “pilot” program would allow the Board and staff to “test” the impacts of expanding these opportunities. This “pilot” program seeks to balance the following by:
- expanding community solar opportunities,
- protecting farmland and the County’s investment in agricultural land preservation,
- co-locating with agricultural use, and
- addressing common concerns with solar in agricultural areas.
Proposed Concepts for Zoning Amendment
Commercial solar facilities are currently a principal permitted use in the commercial and industrial zoning districts in Carroll County. The staff proposal is to proceed with a “pilot” program that would allow community solar facilities to be developed on certain existing remaining portions in the Agricultural zoning 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.
The Proposed Concepts at the link below outline the various points of this proposal.
Based on the proposed concepts, potentially eligible properties were identified that meet this basic criterion. This exercise helps to provide a sense of the amount and distribution of land that could be eligible. Below is a link to the map showing these areas. If the Board of County Commissioners were to adopt an amendment to allow these facilities on these properties, it should be noted that a property may be eligible based on size, but it may not necessarily be suitable in the eyes of a solar developer based on many other factors.
- Map: Potentially Eligible Properties
- Preliminary Draft Proposed Potentially Eligible Parcels & Acreage
Process & Feedback
The proposal reflects concepts that staff felt would provide a balance between protecting farmland, co-locating with agricultural use, minimizing impacts, and addressing several common concerns. However, the concepts also represent a starting point for discussion and feedback. Revisions are anticipated as a result of seeking and incorporating feedback throughout the process.
- Interest Groups: The concepts first will be run by various boards and interest groups discussed with the Board. If there is “game-changer” feedback from these groups, staff will return to the Board to discuss this feedback before proceeding to the Planning & Zoning Commission. If feedback results in any revisions to the proposed concepts, they will be updated on this page.
- Stakeholders: Feedback is welcomed at any time during the process, but especially after the internal groups have provided feedback and concepts are revised to reflect that feedback. Property owners and solar industry groups may email feedback with specific concerns, why, and suggested alternatives to Brenda Dinne at email@example.com.
- Planning & Zoning Commission: Following the feedback process with internal groups and stakeholders, proposed code language reflecting the concepts will move forward to be reviewed by the Planning & Zoning Commission. Per State law, the Planning & Zoning Commission must be given an opportunity to review proposed zoning changes and make a recommendation to the Board. A date to present this information to the Planning & Zoning Commission has not yet been scheduled.
- Board of County Commissioners: Once the Planning & Zoning Commission forwards a recommendation to the Board, staff will brief the Board on the Planning & Zoning Commission’s recommendation. The Board will discuss the proposed zoning amendment and recommendations and can choose to accept, decline, or modify the recommended proposed zoning text. Once the Board is comfortable with a proposal to release for public comment, a public hearing will be scheduled to accept official public comments on the proposed code amendment. Members of the public may provide official comment at that time. Following the public hearing, the Board will deliberate on the comments and decide how to proceed. They could adopt the amendment at that point.
Additional Information and Materials
- Presentations to Board of Carroll County Commissioners
- Video: Board of Commissioners Meeting, September 3, 2020 (1:58:30)
- Video: Board of Commissioners Meeting, August 20, 2020 (0:30:00)
- PowerPoint: Community Solar Zoning Text Amendment: Concepts & Directions, presented August 20, 2020
For More Information
We encourage you to review the information on this website to learn about the proposal and the process.
For more information on community solar energy generating systems (CSEGSs) in Carroll County, please check out the Carroll County Environmental Advisory Council’s (EAC) Community Solar webpage. The EAC’s report to the Board, “Community Solar in Carroll County,” and “A Guide to Becoming a Community Solar Subscriber in Carroll County” are available on this webpage.
If you have additional questions, you may contact Brenda Dinne (Land & Resource Management Special Projects Coordinator) by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 410-386-2140.