Public Service Commission Can Overrule Local Government, Court Says

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The Maryland Court of Appeals reaffirmed on Tuesday that the Maryland Public Service Commission is the final arbiter on the location and approval of solar projects larger than two megawatts—and can preempt local jurisdictions after giving “due consideration” to local zoning ordinances and comprehensive plans.

The ruling cites the historical “intent” of the Maryland General Assembly in passing public utilities law as well as recent amendments enacted in 2017 that reinforced the PSC’s  “decision-making” authority.

The court affirmed that it has always upheld the broad powers of the PSC given to it in statute by the legislature “to execute its principal duty of assuring adequate electrical service statewide.”

And while the court recognized local government as a partner in the decision process, “the ultimate decision-maker is the PSC, not the local government or local zoning board.”

The court did, however, note the PSC’s obligation to consider local land use laws when approving applications for solar projects that require a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity.

Local zoning laws are “nevertheless a statutory factor requiring due consideration by the PSC in rendering its ultimate decision,” the ruling said.

The recent court ruling comes from a case in Washington County where local residents fought Perennial Solar, LLC ‘s application in late 2015 for a variance to build an 86-acre solar farm near the village of Cearfoss.

The Washington County Board of Zoning Appeals approved the application, ruling that the project conformed to the comprehensive plan.  Residents soon petitioned the Washington County Circuit Court to kill the project because it would blight the rural landscape.

But Perennial filed a motion challenging the jurisdiction of the circuit court on the grounds that state law gave the PSC final authority under the state’s Public Utilities Article, passed by the Maryland General Assembly, to approve the placement of solar energy generating systems. The circuit court agreed.

The Washington County Commissioners and a group of citizens appealed to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, which sided with the circuit court in affirming the state’s preemptive authority.

The Washington Commissioners brought the case to Maryland Court of Appeals in late 2018 on the grounds that the General Assembly had “prescribed a role for local government” through local planning and zoning that was not preempted by the PSC.

But the appeals court sided with Perennial, citing case law, the 2017 amendments to public utilities article, and bills that failed in the General Assembly to allow for greater local control.

“Our holding that the General Assembly’s intent to preempt local comprehensive planning and zoning on matters related to the ultimate siting and construction of generating stations is bolstered by the recent amendments to the statute, as well as our consideration of the proposed bills, which were rejected,” the court said.

“If the General Assembly intended to change the existing law, it certainly had the opportunity to do so,” the court said.

The recent ruling received a cool response from Queen Anne’s Conservation Association Executive Director Jay Falstad, who highlighted the PCS’s obligation to local jurisdictions in the ruling.

“Given everything we’ve heard about the great importance of allowing land-use decisions to be made by the Counties rather than by the State, we’re somewhat surprised that the Court of Appeals has ruled unanimously that it’s the State, not the Counties, that will decide where in a County any big solar project is to be located,” Falstad wrote in an email to the Spy. ”But the Court is very careful to emphasize many times over that the PSC is legally required to listen to the County’s views and to give “due consideration” to how the County treats solar projects in its comprehensive plan and zoning regulations.  So, as an environmental organization that strongly supports solar projects when they are built in the right places, we at QACA will go on working at both levels, state and local, for good decision-making about solar in Queen Anne’s County and its neighbors.”

Though disappointed with the ruling, the Kent Conservation Alliance, through its attorney Chris Drummond, said the PSC over the past few years has actually been more proactive in working with local communities on renewable energy projects.

“The Kent and Queen Anne’s County Commissioners are surely disappointed with the Court of Appeals decision,” Drummond wrote in an email to the Spy. “However, the attitude among state agencies regarding local land use and zoning concerns seems to have changed in the past few years. Now, the state agencies that provide information and recommendations to the Public Service Commission actively seek local input and include those concerns in reports to the PSC. Recently, solar applications have been approved by the PSC with conditions that require compliance with local site plan and landscaping requirements. We will work to make sure that the state agencies continue to take local concerns and land use regulations seriously.”

Drummond filed an amicus brief in support of the Washington County Commissioners.

Maryland Association of Counties said the decision was a disappointment but said the organization would “continue to advocate for a county voice in the decision-making process” and that the 2017 legislation did not sideline local governments in the approval process.

“The court’s decision reiterated important parts of state law that require the Commission to give due consideration to the position of a local government on an energy generation projects,” said Les Knapp, chief policy counsel for MACo in an email to the Spy.

But the attorney representing the Washington County citizens group, William Wantz, was not as optimistic and said Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore would soon feel the encroachment of solar farms.

“The availability of farmland at reasonable cost will periodically result in a disproportionate concentration of solar farms displacing agriculture in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore, where rural land prices are cheap.”

 

Crazy Days Ahead! July 25 Through July 27

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Downtown Chestertown’s annual shopping bonanza, Crazy Days, is right around the corner. The sidewalk sale begins on Thursday, July 25 and runs through Saturday, July 27, with many stores carrying the specials into Sunday.  This mid summer tradition is sponsored by the Downtown Chestertown Association.

Great deals can be found on everything from men’s and women’s designer fashions, children’s clothing and toys, jewelry, home décor, kitchen must-haves, wine and cheese, books, art supplies, and even musical instruments.  There is plenty for the younger ones:  free face painting Thursday 10 am to noon, Friday 10 am – 1pm and Saturday 11 am to 2 pm.  Kent County Parks and Rec will be offering games in Fountain Park during the day on Friday.  The Lockbriar Ice Cream Cart will be in town Friday and Saturday.

Shops will be open Friday night until 7 pm. For those who wish to grab something to eat while perusing the bargains, downtown restaurants will be offering “Crazy” food and drink specials. Oyster lovers – Scott Budden of Oyster Point Farms will be in town Friday from 5 -7 pm with his ‘buck a shuck.“ Check out the Downtown Chestertown Facebook page for more deals https://www.facebook.com/pg/downtownchestertown/events/

Bring the whole family to Downtown Chestertown for a fun filled day – or weekend!

The parking is always free.

Retreat House at Hillsboro Sponsors Women’s Retreat

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Linda Mastro

The Retreat House at Hillsboro is sponsoring its first overnight retreat program for women on Friday, September 27 to Sunday, September 29 at The Foehliage Retreat Center in Galena, Maryland. The theme of the retreat is “Seeing with the Eyes of the Heart,” inspired by the book Lost in Wonder: Rediscovering the Spiritual Art of Attentiveness by Esther de Waal. The retreat will provide women the time and space to focus on their personal spiritual needs and would benefit all, including mothers, teachers, caretakers, healthcare or hospice workers, and business leaders.

“This retreat is an opportunity for women to step away from their daily routines to rest, reflect and awaken the spirit,” says retreat facilitator Linda Mastro. “Participants will ponder questions that spark their imaginations and listen for guidance from the practice of paying attention.”

Check-in begins at 3pm on Friday, September 27, and the retreat opens with dinner and a short session to set the tone for the weekend. Saturday’s program will flow in and out of silence, with time for journaling, walking on the grounds, reflection, and conversation. The retreat will conclude on Sunday, September 29 with a morning worship service and brunch.

“All that you need to bring is your whole self, all of your senses, and a willingness to see where God may be leading you,” Mastro says. “Dress for comfort and time outdoors. Women of all faith traditions are welcome.”

The Retreat House at Hillsboro was established in 2014 as a place to share God’s abundant love in the world by holding a sacred, compassionate and inclusive space.  “The Retreat House is a precious sanctuary for all kinds of people who want to experience more hope and joy through a deeper spiritual life,” says director Francie Thayer.“We recognize that coming to Hillsboro isn’t always an option and we are delighted to be able to offer our programs beyond the boundaries of our property. The women’s retreat will be a wonderful way to move out into the world.”

Thayer adds, “Linda Mastro has led several programs at the Retreat House and we are so pleased to have her facilitate our first overnight program for women. Linda’s ability to listen, laugh and engage others in meaningful conversation will make this a delightful experience for the women who attend this retreat.”

The Foehliage Retreat Center is located in Kent County, Maryland. In this intimate facility, participants can enjoy the beauty of nature, the flowing Sassafras River, and glorious sunrises and sunsets. Hosts Gene and Suzanne Foehl exemplify hospitality with homemade meals, comfortable sleeping rooms, and an assortment of inside and outside spaces in which to rest, reflect and explore the retreat themes.

Retreat participation is limited to 15 women. Costs are $375 per person for a single room and $325 for a shared room. The fee includes two nights of lodging, five homemade meals, snacks, and all retreat materials.

To reserve your space at “Seeing with the Eyes of the Heart,” send an email to meg@retreathousehillsboro.org with your name and phone number and send a $100 deposit by July 15, 2019 to The Retreat House, P.O. Box 3, Hillsboro, MD 21641. Final payment will be due by August 15. For more information, call the Retreat House at (410) 364-7069. For more information about the Foehliage Retreat Center, visit foehliageretreatcenter.org.

The Retreat House at Hillsboro is located on the grounds of St. Paul’s Church at 22005 Church Street, Hillsboro, Maryland, and is open for group retreats and meetings, individual hermitages, meditation and any who seek a spiritual connection. A traditional Chartres-style walking labyrinth is always open for walking and prayer. The Retreat House at Hillsboro is a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Easton, MD. For more information, visit our website at http://retreathousehillsboro.org or contact Francie Thayer, Director, at (410) 364-7069 or info@retreathousehillsboro.org.

Haven Ministries Kicks Off #FoundHope Campaign with Hope Rocks

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Do you need an idea about what to do with your children to pass away the lazy days of summer? Just like the modern-day treasure hunt, “geocaching,” that was popular a few years ago, there is a new activity being sponsored by Haven Ministries that families can do this summer while also spreading hope in Queen Anne’s County.

With the help of Queen Anne’s County residents and Kent Island Rocks, Haven Ministries is expanding their #FoundHope Campaign to include “hope rocks” to raise awareness about their ministries in Queen Anne’s County. In the month of June, Haven Ministries Hope Warehouse shoppers and volunteers, along with Kent Island Rocks, the Grasonville Senior Center, and Centreville United Methodist Church Vacation Bible School, painted hundreds of rocks with messages of hope which are hidden throughout the county to be discovered by the public this summer. From July 1 through July 31, anyone who finds one of the painted rocks can photograph it with a cell phone and post it on Haven Ministries Facebook page: havenministriesshelter with #foundhope and the location where they found it. People can also bring the photo of the rock they found to Hope Warehouse in Queenstown for a prize. Finders should then re-hide the painted rock for others to find it. Hope Warehouse is open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

According to Susan Phillips, Manager of Hope Warehouse, “Hope is what Haven Ministries provides. It’s great for the community to come to share their hope through this campaign.”

Karla Horton, owner of Dragonfly Paddle and Fitness in Stevensville and founder of Kent Island Rocks, started painting “kindness rocks” three years ago. The project initially was as a kid’s project but grew as adults enjoyed painting the rocks as well. The rocks had encouraging messages on them. Once people found the rocks, they could either keep them for encouragement or hide them again for someone else to find. Horton has joined forces with Haven Ministries to help with its campaign.

Horton comments, “Haven Ministries does a ton of good work in the community and is one of the few groups serving people who are homeless in the county. It is great to partner with them on this project.”

According to Horton, the Grasonville Senior Center, which supports several social projects in Queen Anne’s County, was excited to also help with the project and clients painted nearly 100 rocks for the campaign.

For further information on the #FoundHope Campaign or Haven Ministries, call 410-739-4363 or visit Haven-minsitries.org or the Facebook page: havenministriesshelter.

Love shapes the ministry, love transforms people, and hope prevails at Haven Ministries.  Haven Ministries operates a seasonal Homeless Shelter located at the Kent Island United Methodist Church in Stevensville, a Resource Center at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Centreville, the Haven Ministries Food Pantries at Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church in Stevensville and Centreville United Methodist Church in Centreville, Our Daily Thread Thrift Store in Stevensville and Hope Warehouse in Queenstown.

Mid-Shore Pro Bono Helps For All Seasons Clients Navigate Legal Matters

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For All Seasons is partnering with Mid-Shore Pro Bono to provide free legal services to clients facing divorce, custody, foreclosure, consumer debt, and family law issues. Funded through a Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant, these legal services are offered through local volunteer attorneys.

According to Sandy Brown, Executive Director of Mid Shore Pro Bono, “This collaborative program helps victims of crime with the civil and legal matters that have created barriers for them. It brings the best of our services together. It’s what we do best.”

Ivy Garcia, Director of Victim Services of For All Seasons Rape Crisis Center states, “We are excited about our partnership with Mid-Shore Pro Bono to assist our clients in civil matters that impact their quality of life.  The ability to have a warm hand-off to a great team of legal experts allows us to focus on our expertise of sexual assault, sexual abuse and trauma, all the while knowing that our clients are being served in a more robust way.”

Pictured are Sandy Brown, Executive Director of Mid-Shore Pro Bono, Beth Anne Langrell, Executive Director of For All Seasons, and Ivy Garcia, Director of Victim Services at For All Seasons.

Since starting in 2018, 16 For All Seasons clients have used the services of Mid-Shore Pro Bono. Clients may be victims of crimes such as sexual abuse or trauma. Victims of crime can also be identified as family members of those suffering from opioid addiction. The program, therefore, has also provided referrals to those who are experiencing third-party custody issues due to an opioid issue resulting in incarceration or death.

Brown adds, “Mid-Shore Pro Bono has seen an 82 percent increase in third-party custody cases due to the opioid crisis. The funds provided by this grant enable attorneys to take these complex cases at reduced fees.”

According to Brown, lawyers can also provide services for immigration and asylum cases if they are related to victims of a crime.

She concludes that both organizations have created a referral source to one another depending on where the victim of a crime first seeks assistance. She states, “We are proud to be working alongside For All Seasons, sharing funds to serve our common clients.”

For All Seasons serves Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne, and Talbot counties. For All Seasons Rape Crisis Center offers certified sexual assault victim advocates; counseling and support groups, free and confidential services in English and Spanish, support in the hospital, police department, and court, and referrals to social and legal services. For All Seasons English Hotline is 1-800-310-RAPE (7273) and Spanish Hotline is 410-829-6143.

MSCF Annual Business Breakfast last June 14

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On June 14, Mid-Shore Community Foundation hosted its Annual Business Breakfast at Chesapeake College.  MSCF President Buck Duncan thanked six retiring Directors for contributing their time and talent to the mission of the Foundation: Bill Boyd, Dick Barker, Janelle Buck, Sara Jane Davidson, Ann Jacobs, and Greg Meekins.  Most of them will continue to volunteer as committee members or scholarship readers.  He then welcomed five new Directors: Bill Christopher and Tracy Tyler from Dorchester County, Becky Loukides from Caroline County, Joe Holt from Kent County, and John Lewis and Jenny Rhodes from Queen Anne’s County.

The keynote speaker for the event was Clay B. Stamp, Assistant Manager & Emergency Services Director for Talbot County. Clay spoke about the opioid crisis, the unique challenges this social and health problem presents, and Governor Hogan’s approach to combatting it through the Opioid Operational Command Center, which Clay led. He thanked State Senator Addie Eckardt,who was in attendance, for her assistance in these efforts. He also thanked the many non-profit representatives in the room for their work supporting the individuals and their families affected by this crisis in so many different ways.

Grant recipients and Clay Stamp

The highlight of the meeting was the distribution of grant awards. In the past fiscal year, MSCF has disbursed more than $4,000,000 in grants and over $700,000 in scholarships to Mid-Shore organizations and students. Another $250,000 was awarded at the meeting from the following MSCF donor advised funds: Artistic Insights, Ferree, Fryling, Reade and Mary Corr, Reynolds/Cristiano and George B. Todd.  Twenty organizations received awards: CASA of the Mid-Shore, Chesapeake College Foundation, Church Hill Theatre, Compass Regional Hospice, Critchlow Adkins Children’s Centers, Delmarva Community Services, Dorchester County Public Library, Eastern Shore Area Health Education Center, Easton Choral Arts Society, Echo Hill Outdoor School, Historical Society of Talbot County, Maryland Food Bank, MidShore Meals til Monday, New Beginnings Youth and Family Services, Pickering Creek Audubon Center, Radcliffe Creek School, ShoreRivers, Talbot Community Connections, Talbot Interfaith Shelter and Wye River Upper School.

Kent County Public Library Celebrates Summer Reading Kickoff

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Kent County Public Library’s summer reading program is back!

This year’s theme, A Universe of Stories, creates the opportunity for kids to explore the galaxy through books, special events, and the ever-popular summer reading game.

The excitement kicks off on Monday, June 24th with three performances by David Darwin, One Man Sideshow.  From juggling to fire eating, plate spinning to unicycling, this not to be missed family-friendly performance will take place at all three KCPL locations –North County at 11am, Rock Hall at 2:30pm, and Chestertown at 6pm.

KCPL’s calendar is packed with programs all summer long, including making a spectroscope to explore the science of visible light, creating galactic pendants, several family films, special after-hours storytimes, and making space slime.  This summer’s featured performances include The Insane Science of Fairyland, “The Sky is Not the Limit” with Story Tapestries, “Aliens!” by Sciencetellers, and the legendary Mr. Sam’s Nursery Rhyme Rock Concert.

This year’s A Universe of Stories summer reading game is full of activities and reading adventures designed to keep young brains engaged and curious.  Players complete activities to earn points and redeem them for prizes, including books, art kits, Orioles and Shorebird baseball tickets, gift cards, and more.  At the end of the summer, all players who have redeemed at least 50 points will be entered in the grand prize raffle drawing!  Kids can vote for what the grand prize will be–a telescope or a Chromebook–when they sign up to play the game.  Registration is open at all KCPL locations and points can be redeemed through August 31st.

Kent County Public Library’s summer reading program is made possible in part by the 2019 Library Readers Reach for the Stars grant from the PNC Foundation.

For more information about the summer reading game and the many special events happening at KCPL this summer, visit kentcountylibrary.org or call 410.778.3636.

Dr. Barbara Paca to Deliver Keynote Address at Independence Day Celebration

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Aspen Institute and Queen Anne’s County Historical Society have announced that the Keynote Address at their annual Independence Day Celebration will be delivered by Dr. Barbara Paca, O.B.E. Dr. Paca is a direct descendant of William Paca, one of four Marylanders to sign the Declaration of Independence.

The celebration will be held July 4, 2019 at 11am at Aspen Institute’s Houghton House on Carmichael Road near Queenstown. A Fourth of July tradition for more than fifty years, it will begin with a wreath laying at the William Paca Memorial. A color guard from the Sergeant Jason D. Mileo Marine Corps League from Centreville will be present. Music will be provided by the Chesapeake Bay Community Band. It will be held rain or shine and will last approximately 90 minutes.

Judy Price, the Director of Aspen Institute’s Wye River Campus, said, “On behalf of the Institute, I invite the community to join us on July 4 to celebrate Independence Day. We promise our visitors a moving and meaningful ceremony to commemorate this treasured national holiday.”

Boy Scouts from Queenstown display historic flags as part of the Celebration.

Queen Anne’s County Historical Society President Jennifer Moore noted, “The annual Independence Day Celebration is an important moment for the Eastern Shore community to celebrate our nation’s independence. We look forward to hearing Dr. Paca’s address.”

Barbara Paca is based in Oxford, Maryland, Manhattan, and Paris, where she is the principal of Preservation Green LLC. With a professional degree in landscape architecture, Ph.D. from Princeton, Fulbright Scholarship, and post at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study, Dr. Paca is the only American landscape architect to be awarded an Order of the British Empire. Queen Elizabeth II appointed her as an Officer of the British Empire (O.B.E.) for a lifetime achievement in historic preservation.

Today Paca’s work embraces creating beautiful, sustainable properties around the world. Her roster of clients includes noted philanthropists who value Paca’s requirement for design projects that pose an intellectual challenge. Her collaborative approach incorporates the aesthetic of timeless beauty, cutting edge environmental practices, accessibility, inclusion, and giving back.

Established in 1950, the Aspen Institute is a nonpartisan forum for values-based leadership and the exchange of ideas. It has earned a reputation for gathering diverse and renowned thought leaders, scholars and members of the public to address some of the world’s most complex issues.

The Queen Anne’s County Historical Society is dedicated to preserving and disseminating the history of Queen Anne’s County. The Society owns two museums in Centreville that are open to the public on the first Saturdays of each month.

Cars on High Adds Kid-Friendly “Touch-a-Truck” Event on June 20

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Main Street Chestertown will offer a kid-friendly “Touch a Truck” evening Thursday, June 20, from 6 to 8 p.m. as a special addition to the monthly Cars on High gathering in downtown Chestertown by Fountain Park.  Park Row will be closed to traffic to display a range of impressive vehicles that will include an ambulance, a police car, a fire truck, a power company bucket truck, a tow truck, a National Guard Humvee, and racing carts from Nicholson Speedway.

As usual for Cars on High, the 300 block of High Street will be closed to accommodate a gathering of classic, antique and exotic cars whose owners gather to share them with other automobile enthusiasts and the general public.

There will barbecue, hotdogs, popcorn and ice cream for sale.  Bring yourself and the family out for a free evening of fun with cool cars and awesome working trucks.

Part of a national network created by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Main Street Chestertown is a 501 (c ) (3) nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the Chestertown experience by fostering an inviting, diverse and prosperous downtown.  For more information, visit mainstreetchestertown.org.

The Cars on High evenings take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month, April through October, weather permitting. Organizers Jon and Barbara Slocum provide information, photos and weather updates on the Cars on High Facebook page.

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