Note: to access the county codes discussed in the following case study, we recommend that you access the Smart DG+ County Zoning Guide at dnr.maryland.gov/pprp/Pages/smartdg.aspx.
Type: Small Scale, Medium- and Large-Scale, and Community Solar Energy Systems on Undeveloped and Developed Land
Zoning Used: All zones, either by right or special exception depending on type of system
A solar facility had been proposed for an approximately 319-acre property on Egypt Road that had previously been planned for a subdivision of approximately 675 houses. City Planning Commission and Council members believed that a solar facility would be preferable to a large residential subdivision.
Two work groups were formed, each focusing on different sized solar facilities. One included the city attorney, two planning staff members, three planning commissioners, and the applicant’s attorney. A second group consisted of two City Council members, three planning commissioners, and city staff. City staff also received valuable information on solar energy sites from DNR’s Power Plant Research Program and Rob Davis, Director, Center for Pollinators in Energy/ Director, Media & Innovation Lab for Fresh Energy in Minnesota. City staff indicated the ordinance development process was comprehensive and inclusive of stakeholder interests, taking six to nine months.
One significant issue investigated was the effect that solar facilities might have on neighboring properties. City staff reached out to Dorchester County government, which had experience with solar siting. Dorchester’s planning director testified at the hearing on the city’s bill in order to provide insights from the County’s experience. Even though few houses or other buildings are located in the vicinity of the Egypt Road site, the facility would occupy a long stretch of road frontage and drivers would have to pass it on their way to prominent sites such as the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center. As a result, standards for berms and/or landscaping were considered important to protect the viewshed.
While citizen input was active for hearings for the County’s solar zoning bill, little occurred at the two hearings on the City’s bill, largely because the Egypt Road site is large and remote, having few neighbors to impact. The applicant took issue with extensive berm requirements, which would require a large amount of fill. As a compromise, the final law allowed extensive tree planting as a substitute for berms.The extent of City land eligible for solar panels—350 acres—was another important topic of discussion. However, since the Egypt Road site occupies 319 acres, just 30 acres more are left to be potentially developed into solar facilities within the City. In addition, to protect resource land the city’s approach discourages solar sites on forests, prime farmland, and wetlands.
Require plantings for pollinators (the regulations do not specify what the seed mix has to be, but the proposed seed mix must be approved and the plantings maintained), ample landscaping/visual buffering, flexibility of administration, and limiting consumption of acreage.
The specifics can be found in the Unified Development Code, City of Cambridge, Maryland1 at choosecambridge.com/DocumentCenter/View/85/Zoning-Ordinance---Updated-July-2017-PDF?bidId=
Article 4 Zoning Districts and Allowable Uses § 4.2 Districts and Allowable Uses § 4.2.3 Standards for Conditional and Special Exception Uses D. Miscellaneous Uses
Specific Zoning for Small-Scale Solar Energy Systems:
Specific Zoning for Medium- and Large-Scale Energy Systems:
Specific Zoning for Community Solar Energy Systems:
Zoning For All Solar Energy Systems:
1 Mayor and City Council Adopted December 8, 2014. Effective January 1, 2015. Updated June 20, 2017, Updated October 30, 2017, Updated June 18, 2018, Updated August 23, 2018, Updated October 19, 2018, Updated March 22, 2019, Updated November 7, 2019
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