I am writing to urge immediate reconsideration and withdrawal of your opposition to the above-referenced proposed utility scale solar power project and pending related legal action. From my perspective as a long-term Kent County resident and businessperson, this project is clearly a win-win proposition for Kent County and its residents. Continued County opposition to the project is ill-advised and shortsighted and pending legal action is likely to be a regretable waste of of the County’s scarce financial resources.
While a lot has been written about the County’s opposition to the Morgnec Road solar project since 2018, little has been said about the rationale supporting your opposition other than the fact that the land is not currently zoned for the proposed purpose. As the County routinely approves requested variances and zoning changes where projects are deemed to be in the public interest, that fact alone should not be grounds for opposing this project. Here’s why you should enthusiastically support completion of this project:
- Before the Clark farm was zoned for residential development, it, like all the road front property on the opposite side of Morgnec Road, was zoned for industrial/commercial development . The change to residential zoning was approved in the early 2000’s in response to a residential subdivision development proposal that was withdrawn when the economy tanked in 2008. Since then, other areas outside of Chestertown proper have been designated for future residential development. Unlike other properties currently zoned for utility scale enterprises, the Clark farm property is particularly well suited to its proposed use given its availability, its size, accessibility, location next to existing industrial/commercial enterprises, proximity to a properly scaled electric substation, and existing natural screening. In contrast, the property, which Chestertown has declined to incorporate, is not suited to residential development for many of the same reasons.
- With climate change-related issues becoming ever more acute, it is incumbent on all MD municipalities to support the State’s goal of having at least 50% of electric power used in the State generated by renewable power sources by 2030, with 14.5% of the total generated by solar power producers. Achievement of this goal will require 6 times the amount of solar power generated by existing producers. Of all existing renewable energy sources, solar power is the cleanest, most dependable, most environmentally friendly source available. Further, it is inexhaustible. Implementation of the Morgnec Rd. solar power station will reduce local dependence on and costs associated with buying power from the privately owned PA/NJ/MD Interconnection LLC; improve the sustainability and lower power production costs at our regional electric power grid thereby reducing pressure to increase consumer electric rates; and reduce reliance on fossil fuel-based power production and our carbon footprint.
- Morgnec Rd. Solar LLC agreed to take necessary steps to avoid disturbing existing wetlands and drainage ditches connecting with other wetlands and hydric soils; avoid cutting existed forested areas; and avoid disturbance of Critical Area Resource Conservation areas of the property. Also, they have found that there are no threatened or endangered species on the property; agreed to protect any areas (if any) found by MHT to have historical significance; and have reportedly agreed to several other conditions stipulated in your meetings with company representatives. Most importantly, they have committed to incorporate desperately needed local pollinator habitat decimated by widespread local use of agrichemicals, tree felling and monocrop planting in their grounds maintenance plans. The environmental value of adding over 200 acres of environmentally friendly pollinator habitat to County lands cannot be overstated. We simply could not have a more considerate and cooperative partner in supporting achievement of MD’s renewable energy development goals.
- This project, which constitutes a new private capital investment of $80 million in Kent County’s infrastructure, will result in a substantial increase in annual property tax revenue and will create over 100 temporary but nonetheless welcome job opportunities for residents during the design/build phase. If the County reestablishes a positive working relationship with Morgnec Road LLC, it may be possible to negotiate a road front set-back of the proposed facility that would allow for new commercial development fronting Morgnec Road, added solar facility screening and additional property and sales tax revenue.
It’s not too late to change your position on this project. The reasons for you to do so are compelling. Spending $15K to $20K of County funds that could be put to much better use than the pending suit is both short-sighted and fiscally irresponsible. Support for this proposal will clearly pay many desirable dividends.
I hope you will take this request to heart and do what’s right for Kent County and your constituents in both the near and long term. Thank you very much for your consideration.
Paula B. Reeder