Freeland, Md. resident Gary Atkinson wants a company to install a temporary solar farm to about twenty percent of his land at the Mason-Dixon Line. Some residents and at least one Baltimore Co. councilman have pushed back about the proposal to the property, in his family's possession since the 1800s.  (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun video)

A recent Sun editorial (“Let the sun shine in Baltimore County,” Jan. 18) was snarky and short-sighted. Residents of Baltimore County who have fought for many decades to protect our prime agricultural land from development are branded as “affluent rural landowners” who don’t want to “stare out from their Great Rooms” and see solar panels.

Many years ago, Baltimore County established the URDL Line, an urban-rural demarcation line that separates the developed part of the county which has access to public water and sewer from the rural part of the county. The acceptance of this demarcation line by generations of county elected officials has protected northern Baltimore County’s rolling hills, verdant valleys and thriving agricultural community from development pressures. Most of our farmers are far from affluent; they carefully tend to their acres so that the land will continue to support their families.

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Now solar companies are plying area farmers with cold calls offering to lease as much of their land as possible for 20-25 years. Instead of crops and cattle, the land will be covered with steel supports and solar panels. If the Sun editorial writers get their way, northern Baltimore County will come to resemble a post-industrial landscape and the families who have lived there will permanently move away and live on their residual checks from the solar firms. What a mistake this would be.

To be sure, there is a place for solar farms on land that is not prime agricultural land, but for the long-term, the best place for solar panels is on top of big box stores, industrial facilities, warehouses, school buildings and on shed roofs erected over parking lots in order to turn them into profit centers for the appurtenant businesses. If we follow The Sun’s lead and transform our rural countryside into expanses of steel and silicon, we will live to regret it.

Chris West, Towson

The writer, a Republican, represents District 42, Baltimore County, in the Maryland Senate.

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