At Tuesday’s County Commissioners meeting, all three commissioners voted to oppose the re-started plan to build a commercial solar array on the Clark Farm property on Morgnec Road.
According to the comprehensive plan, the property is currently a designated growth area for Chestertown, and a zoning text amendment would have been required to allow construction of the solar array.
The Morgnec Road site was originally filed with Maryland Public Service Commission for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) by Morgnec Road Solar LLC in December 2017.
In 2019 the Chestertown Town Council voted to sign on as an intervening party. At that time, residents Frank Rhodes, a property owner near the proposed site, and Janet Christensen-Lewis and Elizabeth Lewis of Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance (KCPA) spoke in opposition to the project’s location as a designated growth area.
As per a Spy article in January 2019 by Peter Heck, Watson said, “it’s typical for developers to find a piece of land they think will work, then try to get the zoning changed to accommodate their projects. “I believe in renewable energy, big-time. I just believe it’s the wrong place.”
Watson added that Kent County offers several areas between Galena and Millington where commercial solar power is permitted, but if Chestertown is to expand, there needs to be places to live and work. Solar arrays offer scant employment opportunities, are usually run remotely, and rely on their own maintenance operations.
Janet Christensen-Lewis, Chair Board of Directors of Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance (KCPA), says the next step is to have the parties involved set a schedule with dates for the evidentiary hearing, a written submission date for the briefs and rebuttal briefs, and a public hearing.
“During the last round, the 1st day of the evidentiary hearing and the public hearing was scheduled to take place here in Kent County (Public Works Building). It is likely with the number of material witnesses and evidence that needs to be presented by both sides the hearing will continue for at least two days perhaps more,” Christensen wrote to The Spy.
Additional evidentiary hearing days will likely take place in Baltimore, but depending on the status of the pandemic, hearings may become virtual.
Another issue raised by KCPA during the Clark Farm solar proposal is about “cultural landscapes” and protecting the historical heritage of a region. Watson says that the archeological research done on the property has been insufficient. Though no direct proof has been found, the property may be the location of one of the Eastern Shore’s most famous escapes from bondage. Another “Harriet,” Harriet Shepherd, according to William Still’s 1872 book, “The Underground Railroad Records,” escaped with ten other slaves in their master’s carriage as per Maryland archives here.
Again, currently, there is no link between Shepherd’s escape and the Clark Farm area. Still, somewhere a site is to be discovered and brings to the fore a question of historical preservation and the idea that what lies in the past is a significant preface to who we are now.
These are themes The Chestertown Spy will explore in the near future.