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The Reserve stakeholder report insists that allowing solar siting as a conditional use in the Ag Reserve is the only viable and legal path forward for this ZTA.
For those not well versed in land use planning (most of us) - a brief explanation:
The ZTA currently proposed solar siting as a "limited use" meaning that it is a permitted use with some conditions, reviewed and approved by the MC Planning Commission. This ZTA as written has actually made few limits on where this use can go and what it can displace, namely farming:
- Forests removed for these projects will be the purview of the Planning Board on a site by site basis. This process did not protect trees when the Poolesville Array was allowed to clear 3 acres of forests for 6 acres of arrays.
-1800 is the first ask of ground mounted solar sought for the Reserve - ZTA sponsor CM Riemer has said anywhere between 13,000-18,000 acres is the amount of ground mounted solar being sought on open space and rural lands in the county. A limited use does not curtail far more than 1800 acres being approved later. With solar companies already offering 10-25 the going price per acre, why would this use not drive up costs for farmers throughout the Reserve? - a place designed so farmers don't have to compete with other uses for land.
Bottom Line: This "Limited Use" does not properly ensure that farming and forests are protected in the Reserve.
Bottom Line: Conditional use is an existing path for non-ag uses to co-exist with farms in the Ag Reserve. It balances non-farm uses with farms - a stated goal of this ZTA. In conformance with the master plan this is only legal path forward.