Baltimore County solar-farm bill withdrawn

A Baltimore Co. councilman withdrew legislation regulating use of solar facilities on rural lands.

A Baltimore County councilman withdrew legislation Tuesday that would have regulated the emerging use of solar facilities on rural lands, saying council members could not agree on limits for the size of such projects.

Councilman Wade Kach's move came after months of discussion on the issue. The seven-member council was set to vote Tuesday evening on the measure — which would have addressed issues such as height and setback regulations — but Kach withdrew it instead.

The original bill limited solar installations to no more than 20 acres, or half of a property, whichever was smaller. Kach said some council members wanted to increase the size limit to 35 acres, which he said is the equivalent of 27 football fields.

"If you all can envision the Ravens football field, multiply it by 27, that is the size that some on this council believe would be appropriate for the rural part of Baltimore County," said Kach, a Cockeysville Republican whose district covers the northern part of the county.

Kach also said he expects legal challenges to proposed solar projects.

The legislation was proposed amid growing interest from farmers who want to lease their land to energy companies.

Council members on Tuesday received numerous emails from Sierra Club members who opposed the bill, saying it was overly restrictive of the solar industry.

The council has also heard concerns from rural residents who say the facilities would be an eyesore, and from those worried it would take fertile farmlands out of production.

Councilwoman Vicki Almond said in a statement issued after the meeting she wanted to keep working on the issue.

"I am a strong proponent of solar energy," said Almond, a Reisterstown Democrat who supported increasing the acreage limits. "I look forward to continuing to work with the Sierra Club, and other interested parties, to meet the clean energy needs of Baltimore County residents."

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