Town debates solar panels

edited.internationalstudnets1_liztilleyBy Victoria Gill

Opinion Editor

Last Wednesday, Public Utility Law Judge Kirstin Case Lawrence conducted a town hearing in Norman James Theatre in regard to Case Number 9499: Morgnec Road Solar Project of Kent County.

According to Morgnec Road Solar’s fact sheet provided at the meeting, the company has filed to construct and operate a 45 Megawatt solar array in Kent County, just 15 miles away from Chestertown.

“Kent County would become a net-energy producer,” said a resident of Rock Hall, MD, who was present at the hearing.

The property consists of agricultural fields and wooded areas. These panels will occupy 253.16 acres, spanning two parcels which would total 471 acres near the town.

According to the project’s information sheet, this would avoid any disturbance in the area. There are also no records of rare, threatened, or endangered species on the property.

This land was owned by a single landowner who had contracted to lease or sell the parcels to Morgnec Road Solar, LLC.

Thomas Tucker, a local landowner, sees this project as a way to decrease the value of residential property for those who will be neighboring the panels.

Tucker spoke about the money he and his wife put into their farm and the worry of not being able to sell their home.

“I think I’m sunk, and not be able to get my money back,” Tucker said.

An attorney of the Kent County Commissioners represented the office by opposing the project.

He said that due to facility-scaled zoning, the project would not be allowed on residential development.

Portions of the acred property are currently zoned as Rural Residential and Community Residential. The application submitted a Text Amendment to change the text in the zoning ordinance with Kent County back in October of 2018. This allowed approval of utility scale solar projects within the zoning designations.

A resident of Rock Hall went up and urged the councilwoman about the kind of environmental and cultural enhancement it would bring to the area.

“The biggest danger to the children of Kent County is climate change,” he said.

Approximately 70 percent of this area is considered Prime Farmland or Farmland of Statewide importance.

The project is expected to create around 200 jobs in the fields of design, management, and construction. This would create a capital investment of $80 million.

“It’s within our power of Kent County to do this and I think we should,” the Rock Hall resident said.

Judy Gifford, a dairy farmer of Kent County, spoke about how she had solar panels on her roof.

While she was for the technological advancement to save energy, she viewed this as a “large-scale soil project.”

She thought a lot of these plans were adding to, and not alleviating, environmental degredation.

However, the company is not proposing to cut any forested areas onsite and only plans to remove a few trees that surround the existing farmhouse.

The next public hearing regarding this topic is scheduled for Oct. 11, 2019.

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