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
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
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
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
Friends of Harford (FOH) requests the Harford County Council to AMEND Zoning Code 267-39 (F); REMOVING the Director of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) as the only grantor of waiver for trees, shrubs, plants and specific areas considered priorities for retention and protection as described in 267-39 (D).
In addition, CREATE legislation to commission a Waiver Advisory Board to include members from various county organizations: Environmental Advisory Board, DPZ, Planning Advisory Board, Harford Soil and Conservation Board, Parks and Recreation Board, Historic Conservation and Harford County Forestry Board.
Introduction and approval of an amendment to Zoning Code 267-39 adding an oversight committee for granting waivers for trees, shrubs and plants accordingly is the FIRST STEP to reassuring the citizens of Harford County that areas that contribute long-term aesthetic, environmental, and economic benefits will be reviewed in a fair and appropriate manner when development of these area are requested.
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.
Friends of Harford- Why we asked the Candidates these questions:
Unless you’ve been personally affected by a County land use decision, you may be wondering why we asked these particular questions of local candidates. The following links provide reasons for the questions asked.
Have you registered and reviewed the candidates for the 2018 GUBERNATORIAL PRIMARY?
Land use decisions are made locally. In anticipation of the upcoming election, Friends of Harford asked Harford County Candidates for County Executive and County Council questions about land use issues.