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Kamenetz vetoes moratorium on rural solar farms

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has vetoed a bill that would have put a four-month moratorium on large solar panel arrays in rural areas.

Kamenetz wrote to Baltimore County Council members Thursday to say that he didn't object to the goal of the bill — which is to buy time to develop specific regulations for the solar farms — but did object to a provision exempting county-owned solar projects only if they include landscaping paid for by the company installing the panels.

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That provision was instigated by Councilman David Marks, who has raised concerns about Kamenetz's plans to have Solar City put a large field of solar panels at Mount Vista Park in Kingsville in his district. Marks said he hasn't gotten assurances the project won't be unsightly.

Kamenetz, a Democrat, said the landscaping requirement would force him to renegotiate the deal with Solar City. He called Marks' provision a "sort of 'poison pill' that forces me to veto this bill."

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The Solar City project is one of four joint solar projects planned by Baltimore County and Solar City. Others are at Southwest Area Park in Baltimore Highlands and at closed landfills in Woodstock and Parkton.

Marks, a Perry Hall Republican, said the landscaping clause was needed.

"The county executive negotiated a flawed agreement with Solar City with no involvement from the County Council or the Kingsville community, where he wants to put solar panels on a public park," he said.

Kamenetz said it "grieves" him to veto what "started out as a perfectly reasonable bill."

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The measure passed unanimously – which means the council could likely override the veto. Marks said he'd prefer the council instead move forward to pass rules that govern solar farms, including landscaping, security and other details.

"Now that the county executive has vetoed the bill, the County Council has an opportunity to pass legislation that will protect communities when the Kamenetz administration failed to do so," Marks said.

The council's next meeting is Nov. 7.

Solar farms have come under increasing scrutiny as they've grown popular in rural areas. Solar companies, encouraged by state policies that encourage renewable electricity generation, are approaching farmers to lease land to install solar panels. Some have raised concerns the solar panels shouldn't be allowed in agricultural preservation areas or advocated for limits on their use.

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