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Appeals Board Submits Solar Farm Order
Prince Frederick, MD - 8/2/2012
By Marty Madden
In response to a judge’s order to offer meaningful proof to back an earlier decision, the Calvert County Board of Appeals reissued an order granting a special exception that will result in construction of the county’s first solar farm. The board’s action on the case involving the proposed facility on a Huntingtown farm was taken during their Thursday, Aug. 2 meeting.
The order was issued in compliance with Circuit Court Judge Graydon S. McKee III’s June ruling that the board of appeals “failed to make meaningful findings of fact, as required by law” in granting the exception to the applicant, Luke Hutzell of Solis Energy Solutions Inc., who applied on behalf of property owner Donald V. Bowen. The 105-acre farm is adjacent to a subdivision called Abington Shores. Members of the Abington Shores Civic Association have opposed the proposed solar farm, which would be located on two acres of Bowen’s farm. The $3.1 million project is envisioned as an opportunity for electric utilities to purchase renewable energy. The property is zoned Farm and Forest District (FFD).
Opponents have voiced concerns about the problems the construction phase of the project could pose to area residents.
The Board of Appeals heard testimony from the two sides last October prior to granting the special exception without additional conditions.
Board Chair Susie Hance Wells announced that no testimony would be taken at the Aug. 2 meeting and that the public record was closed. Board alternate member Kenneth Moore joined Hance Wells and board member D.O. Baker in considering the case since board member John Ward had recused himself from the case last fall.
In its October ruling, the Board of Appeals noted “the Calvert County Zoning Ordinance allows commercial solar power generating facilities in five of the major zoning districts including the FFD” and that “the [Calvert County] Comprehensive Plan also promotes the use of sustainable alternative energy sources.” The panel also concluded the solar facility would have no adverse impacts since the property was sufficiently buffered.
“We felt the order should stay,” said Hance Wells, who added the board members had read and reviewed the transcript of the October meeting.
In reading the order into the record, Baker noted the appeals board has the power to hear cases and decide on requests for special exception. He also cited a lengthy list of correspondence from citizens, as well as county and state officials.
One official who weighed in on the issue, Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Earl ‘Buddy” Hance, indicated the solar farm would have no impact on adjacent properties.
Baker said the solar panel would create a “faint, electrical hum. No noise, no traffic, no trees will be cut down. This does not pose a safety hazard. The applicant has met the conditions for special exception.”
Attorney, Carlton Green, who served as the board’s counsel for the Aug. 2 meeting, opined that the panel had “explained its decision” adding that the judge had remanded the case back to the board for “sufficient details.”
Kenneth Wilcox, the attorney who represented the Abington Shores Civic Association during the circuit court case, said later he had not reviewed the Board of Appeals’ order and was not sure if the association would file another appeal. Wilcox indicated residents still harbor fears the solar panels could pose a fire hazard and with the narrow, winding roads serving the subdivision, “access for public safety vehicles” could also be problematic.
Contact Marty Madden at email@example.com
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