The amended ZTA 20-01 was passed 7-2 with Councilmembers Rice, Albornoz, Navarro, Katz, Friedson, Jawando and Glass For and Riemer and Hucker Against. The straw vote taken last month held with the addition of CM Glass supporting the amended ZTA to get some solar, rather than none, sited in the Reserve.
The Councilmembers who voted for the ZTA on why they support it, in their own words (these are clips the full council meeting can be found here) :
1) up to 200% accessory solar generation on farms (up from 120%) see the farms already taking advantage of on-farm solar.
2) conditional use designation for community or net aggregate metered facilities up to 2MW on no more than 1800 acres in the Reserve. The conditional use amendment was sponsored by CM Rice.
3) exclusion of soil class I and II from solar siting (Soil Class II was added under CM Friedson's amendment. No farming really takes place on Class I soils as most are on Potomac Islands or stream buffers. Class II is where the bulk of current farms operate - check out the soil class chart. (New mapping from the county suggests that over 400 parcels remain for siting solar while avoiding productive class II soils.)
4) mandatory assessment/review provision with impact report by December 31, 2023 provided by Councilmember Jawando's amendment.
Councilmember Rice opened the meeting by highlighting the fact that the ZTA as amended was a pathway for siting solar in the Ag Reserve. Despite the call from some solar industry supporters that wanted to see the amended ZTA pulled because of the perception that no solar would be constructed, Rice characterized the ZTA as opening the door to solar in the Reserve with the opportunity to revisit the provision in two years to see if a meaningful amount of solar is in fact sited under Councilmember Jawando's amendment creating an assessment point in two years.
Other councilmembers chimed in with their feeling that opening the door to some solar with protections is still a big step forward toward the County's climate goals.
Councilmember Albornoz said, "It's not a question of if we support solar in the Ag Reserve, it is a question of when and how. We have to take into account the nuances and complexities of this issue."
Katz "I believe we will have more solar than less." He asked that the solar industry sit down with farmers to get started siting on the 4000+ available acres available under the ZTA.
Councilmember Navarro called for an end to the divisive and binary tone that the issue had brought to discussions. "We have to be able to deliberate."
MCA is deeply grateful to the thoughtful action of Councilmembers, our coalition partners including SCA, Clean Water Action, Montgomery County Farm Bureau and 58 other groups and our supporters who wrote, called and spoke up for solar siting with care in the Ag Reserve.
- Our Board Member and Climate Liaison Joyce Bailey has been busy providing testimony in support of a number of climate and water quality bills in Annapolis.
- Councilmembers discussing this ZTA spoke to the Reserve's importance primarily as a source of local food. We are working to match aspiring farmers with land to strengthen our local food system. Land Link Montgomery will host an info session for Landowners on March 24.