CSEGS in Carroll County Zoning Code

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.

Overview of 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 for full and up-to-date 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 Designationand/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.