Friends of Harford Legislative Input- Bill 21-001 Solar Energy

Friends of Harford President, Stephanie Flasch, provided input for Bill 21-011 during the February 2, 2021 County Council Meeting. Remarks below.

RE:  FOH Supports Bill 21-001 Solar Energy with Amendments

Friends of Harford (FOH) is dedicated to advocating for responsible land use policies and practices that reduce environmental impacts. We commend the County’s legislative efforts for alternative energy initiatives.  Bill 21-001, Solar Energy, is an opportunity to enact small scale clean energy sources but must be amended to reduce negative impacts on Harford County’s landscape so the legislation is a win, win for all.

FOH reviewed solar energy best practices, HarfordNext Environmental Stewardship and Community Planning Areas chapters, plus solar energy legislation in effect in other Maryland Counties to evaluate the Solar Energy bill.  FOH requests the following amendments:

  • Define Power and Regenerative Plants, Harford County’s large scale solar projects permitted in GI district.   The definition can clarify the difference between large scale solar utilities and the Community Solar Energy Generating Systems (CSEGS) as an accessory or small-scale solar development.  The language in the both definitions need to identify key differences. Development Standards B (8) allows up to 3 CSEGS on one parcel;  how  is this different from large scale solar projects?
  • Change Permitted Use from a Special Development (SD) to a Special Exception (SE).  Allowing the community and adjacent property owners the ability to provide feedback on the impacts proposed to their property or community. The county has no experience with a small scale solar accessories in the designated zoning, therefore a Special Exception would at least potentially allow neighbors to help set site-specific requirements to protect themselves, or if necessary, to stop the project.  An SD denies both possibilities.
  • Solar developments should not exclude Agricultural districts. Agricultural protections can be designed to address different developmental-related risks.    For example, sitings prohibited in Rural Legacy Areas, on land under conservation or preservation easement plus a two-mile buffer from designated Scenic Byways in the County.  These type of restrictions assist in preserving the local heritage, the scenic views, and protect against the detraction of events held in agricultural areas.  The addition of the Agricultural District allows a Use that does not destroy valuable land with permanent development. 
  • Incorporate The Department of Natural Resources guidance on Solar Site Pollinator Habitat designations into Development Standard Section B (5) to gain benefits at the solar site and enhance habitats surrounding the site.
  • Use limitation must be included.  Maximum square feet occupied on lot or a percentage of the land to ensure the size is appropriate for the districts and minimizes the impact on the communities. Similar to Use limitations sited for Accessory Use and Structures § 267-27.
  • CSEGS projects should be limited to balance County initiatives with Maryland Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (Md-PACE) program. Harford County Code, Chapter 123 Article VIII: Clean Energy Loan Program provides incentives and opportunities for clean energy programs; solar energy sources on existing structures.

Bill 21-001, Solar Energy is a step in the right direction to enact standards for small-scale solar projects but requires amendments to reduce the long term impacts on Harford County’s landscape and communities. Thank you for your consideration for Bill 21-001 amendments.

Current Zoning Board of Appeals Docket

Variance/Special Exception cases in Harford County.

VIRTUAL ZONING HEARINGS DOCKET


Public hearings/input of note include an Appeal of Written Determination and Special Exceptions to allow a Restaurant and Brew Pub in Village Business Zoning


NOTES:

Appeal of Written Determination

Appeal of Written Determination, proposed for the First Election District, 240, 241, 242, 243 and 245 Ogden Court, Abingdon, by ERICH BAIN and STEVEN GOLDEN.

Appealed because an appeal of a final written determination by the Director of Planning, pursuant to Section 267-7A(6) of the Harford County Code, in a letter dated December 30, 2019, where it was concluded that the five (5) existing single-family detached residences, operated by New Points, LLC, are “Residential: Conventional Development as Single Family Detached Dwellings”, and are permitted in the R3 Urban Residential District, requires approval by the Board of Appeals.


Village Business (VB) District

“This district is intended to provide business services to rural areas and to preserve and enhance the character and function of long-established rural settlements. This district compliments the VR district by providing a mix of business and residential uses at an appropriate scale. The Rural Village Study shall be used as a guide for achieving architectural compatibility.” § 267-58

There are nine Villages in the County: Churchville, Coopstown, Darlington, Dublin, Forest Hill, Jarrettsville, Norrisville, Upper Crossroads and Whiteford.  These have been villages long before there was a Zoning Code.



Follow Zoning Board of Appeals here: http://hcgweb01.harfordcountymd.gov/Legislation/Zonings

A Snapshot of development planning in Harford County


The Fall, 2020 Harford County Water & Sewer Master Plan Update lists almost 6,000 houses, apartments, townhouses or commercial buildings coming to Harford County.
See image below.

Track It Screenshot

Red Icons = Development Advisory Committee (DAC) Meeting

Black Icons = Community Input Meeting (CIM)

Blue Icons = Zoning Board of Appeals

Click on link below to view interactive map on Harford County Government website: TRACK IT

https://harfordgis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/ae99c265fc184a738c63bb28ad7d4f6e

Harford County Water & Sewer Master Plan Update, Fall 2020

http://hcgweb01.harfordcountymd.gov/Legislation/Resolution/ResolutionDetail/019-20

Provide input. Tell local representatives about proposed developments in your area and impacts to your community.

Sign up for Friends of Harford Alerts to receive meeting notices and local land use issue news.

Guide to the Harford County Property Development Process

FOH Scorecard June, 2020 UPDATE

View the lastest Harford County Council legislative “scorecard” provided by Friends of Harford. Stay tuned for updates on land use legislation and track how your County Council representative voted! 

Highlights

County Executive VETOES Bill 20-005 and Council Overturns Veto with Shrodes Dissenting

Bill 20-005 Claims settlement information

Sponsors: Councilman Robert Wagner and Andre Johnson

Requires the Administration to notify the County Council of any legal claims/lawsuit settlements over $100,000 from any fund to be reviewed and approved.

Currently only those claims paid out by the Self- Insurance fund needs review and approval by the Council.

[Amended on 4/21/20 to require Administration to deliver written report to the County Council every 6 months and include all information pertinent to claims or lawsuits. Amendment withdrawn 5/5/20.]

The Council may not disclose information until there is public notice. This remains unchanged from original bill 94-032.  More Information

Friends of Harford Legislative Scorecard 

 

Legislative Scorecard UPDATE February, 2020

View the lastest Harford County Council legislative “scorecard” provided by Friends of Harford. Stay tuned for updates on land use legislation and track how your County Council representative voted! 

NEW Proposed Legislation:

  • Bill 20-001 Commercial Amusement and Recreation
  • Sponsor: Council President Vincenti for County Executive Glassman
  • Summary: Amends the Zoning Code adding COMMERCIAL AMUSEMENT AND RECREATION as a Permitted Use in the R4 Zoning District, subject to specified requirements regarding yard buffers, hours of operation, and allowable lighting sources. Plus, amendment introduced will increase hours of operation to 8 AM to 10 PM daily.

Read Bill Here

This bill is needed to support Resolution 001-20; a $1 sale of 25 acres Washington Court Surplus Property to Coppermine Fieldhouse, LLC; requiring the owning company to use land as an athletic field
facility for 20 years.  This is not currently allowed in the R4 Zones. Read Resolution HERE.

Friends of Harford Opinion: Legislation should not be enacted County-wide for one company, owner or project. Rather, a use not permitted in a zoning district may be granted via a Special Exception as are Country and Swim Clubs, and Assembly Halls for example in R4.   

Public Hearings: 2/4/20 6:15 pm 

Friends of Harford will update the scorecard after the vote. 

Harford County Legislative SCORECARD

Legislative Scorecard UPDATE December, 2019

View the lastest Harford County Council legislative “scorecard” provided by Friends of Harford. Stay tuned for updates on land use legislation and track how your County Council representative voted! 

 

Harford County land use legislation “scorecard”
provided by Friends of Harford

Gunpowder Riverkeeper Input to MDE Wetlands & Waterways Permit Re: Abingdon Business Park

Gunpowder Riverkeeper letter to Maryland Department of the Environment

Re: Abingdon Business Park 

Public Input Letter to MDE Re: Abingdon Business Park Wetlands and Waterways permit

Gunpowder Riverkeeper is opposed to the Wetlands and Waterways Permit 19-NT-0228 because of the complexity of the project, the location in a heavily forested wetland, and the stated wetlands mitigation plan that would pay into the non tidal wetlands mitigation fund rather than mitigate impacts within the same watershed. Read more here. 

 

 

 

 

Abingdon Business Park

Abingdon Business Park – Forest Stand Delineation and Forest Conservation Plan
 
In response to plans to create an industrial park on a 326-acre parcel near the Route 24 and Interstate-95 interchange, land use advocacy groups from Harford County and beyond signed a letter addressed to Mr. Brad Killian, Director of Planning and Zoning for Harford County.

The proposed Abingdon Business Park is located within Abingdon Woods bounded by I-95, Route 24, Route 7 and Abingdon Road. The legal and practical concerns include extensive deforestation (planned clear cut of 220 acres of forest) and potential for negative impacts to water quality are detailed in the full letter printed below. 

The letter begins…

“The undersigned citizens and organizations are writing in opposition to the proposed Abingdon Business Park, located at the southeast corner of I-95 and Route 24. The undersigned have serious legal and practical concerns about the extensive deforestation proposed under the current plan and the associated negative impacts to water quality. This project proposes substantial deforestation that appears to violate local and state laws regarding forest conservation and is contrary to County policy as stated in the County’s Green Infrastructure Plan.”  READ LETTER Continue reading “Abingdon Business Park”

Auston Pyrolysis Decision

The Harford County Circuit Court upheld the decision in Case 5886 to deny the tire pyrolysis operation by Auston Transfer and Processing on 6 acres in Joppa off Route 7. 

The property, Auston Transfer, used for shredding and recycling scrap tires requested a new system to incinerate tires within a closed chamber.  The property is zoned CI- Commercial Industrial.  Planning & Zoning approved the use in this zoning category. 

Within the time frame allowed, two Joppa citizens appealed the determination made by the Director and asked that the matter be reviewed by the County’s Hearing Examiner.  They were assisted by the People’s Counsel.  That decision was appealed because it considered the determination of the Planning and Zoning Director to allow this use in CI, was improper and that the pyrolysis system belonged in GI-General Industrial zoning.

As of this decision, the Hearing Examiner, County Council and now the Circuit Court all agree that the Director of Planning & Zoning overreached his authority and made a “legal error” in deciding to allow this use in CI. 

In addition, the Circuit Court added that material and information which is not in the Zoning Code itself, should be made available to the public.  In this case it was the Industrial Codes used by the Department of Planning & Zoning. 

Why is this relevant?

Friends of Harford is sharing news of this decision because it is an example of how the system is supposed to work. The community had concerns about the potential for negative effects to the environment and of the proximity of the tire burning near their homes. At each level, the facts were brought to light and the decision was made not to allow this type of facility in a Commercial Industrial Zoning. Had the tire pyrolysis plant been allowed in CI, it would have set precedent for future types of facilities in CI zoning.

 

Zoning Changes Update & New Scorecard

Friends of Harford News and Views
June, 2019

Bill 19-016 – Zoning Code Changes- Public Hearing Input- June 4, 2019

Recently, Friends of Harford President, Stephanie Flasch provided public input on Bill 19-016 (Zoning Code Changes) See full text of comments here. 

See full text of Bill 19-016 HERE. 

There is still time for citizens to send their comments to the County Council.
Call or email the County Council at (410) 638-3343 or council@harfordcountymd.gov 

Friends of Harford tracks the voting records for land use legislation via the SCORECARD. The Friends of Harford scorecard will be updated with amendments and voting record for land use legislation. 

Scorecard