What was billed as an interactive Town Hall to hear from stakeholders was in fact a webinar where only a number of hand picked panelists could speak or even be seen. In the words of one participant in the Q+A chat box "I don't think I can be seen or heard by others in the meeting - is that how this meeting is supposed to go?" And the response from county staff - "Yes."
- Facts must rule. A number of ZTA proponents said things that are not entirely accurate about this proposal or require a more nuanced understanding. For instance - that the power generated by these arrays will go to MoCo residents (about 4% of it will) and that the ZTA is exclusively community solar ( it is not.) Please read our fact sheet here.
- This proposal is exclusively about the Ag Reserve, and is unanimously opposed by Reserve farmers. A better understanding of the Ag Reserve's central purpose in the master plan is important before acting. For example, comments were made that this is actually a win for struggling farmers (this proposal, even without passage is in fact already ending leases, the lifeblood of Reserve farming and keeping new farmers from getting started). Another commenter said this ZTA has already been amended to protect productive soils (not at all). Optimistically, those holding an inaccurate view of the Reserve and the County’s rural communities might come to know and understand more before issuing edicts as to their future.
- We need to get a standard understanding of community solar. The point was made a number of times that opponents of this ZTA are not anti-solar. MCA and our many partner groups with deep concerns about this ZTA want to see solar done right - and equitably. A number of industry representatives on the call talked up the benefits of the State's community solar program in which low income residents lock in consistent low energy prices by buying a membership to a solar array nearby. We are in agreement, this program is a great thing- however there is no requirement in this ZTA that the energy generated goes to a the state community solar program. Instead it is required to be net-metered and can then be bought by one of the distributors under investigation for predatory pricing that harms the same low income neighbors that proper community solar would help.
If you are just catching up - the Council has sent Solar ZTA 20-01 (the proposal for 3 square miles of commercial solar in the Ag Reserve with scant protections for forests, water quality, etc.) back to committee with instructions to gather more stakeholder input.
The first opportunity for input is a Virtual Town Hall on November 5 at 7pm.
Click Here to register for the meeting and you will be given the link.
This event will be led by Committee chair (and sponsor of the ZTA) Councilmember Riemer and Council President Katz. A link for this meeting has not yet been posted but we will share by email and social media when it's available.
According to a press release from the Council, after the town hall, a working group of stakeholders will be convened to provide amendments to the ZTA, in time for the Council to vote on an amended ZTA in late January 2021.
This Town Hall is the first opportunity residents have had to publicly express concerns on this issue since March. Please plan to join the zoom if you can. Because broadband is spotty or non-existent in much of the Ag Reserve, we need anyone who can attend this online forum to do so - particularly those who lease farmland. Solar companies are already offering local landowners between 10-20 times what farmers pay to lease acreage.
Stakeholder input is needed to get solar right in MoCo in a way that balances productive soils, forests and water quality. Fact sheet here.