Council approves rezoning for solar farm near Port Deposit
— Cecil County Council unanimously approved a rezoning request from TES Red Toad Solar on Tuesday to change 7.5 acres from rural residential zoning to northern agriculture.
The applicant now has to apply for a special exception to operate a solar array farm on the rezoned parcel, located at the corner of Red Toad Road and Theodore Road near Port Deposit.
Two weeks ago during a public hearing on the rezoning request, one neighbor supported it while another neighbor was against it.
The property is owned by Katherine Breslin, who is interested in leasing it to TES Red Toad Solar, LLC. The company wants to install solar panels to generate electricity for sale. Breslin told county council that she needs the lease income to supplement her retirement because she is a widow.
Mary Louise Lee, a nearby resident, objected, saying installation of solar panels will decrease her property value.
“We already lost $125,000 because potential buyers of six acres we own didn’t want to live across from solar panels,” Lee said. “They’re ugly and an eyesore.”
Attorney Dwight Thomey represented Breslin and TES Red Toad Solar at the public hearing. Thomey argued the rezoning should be approved because there was a mistake made in the 2011 comprehensive plan.
“That land should have been NAR because it has always been used for agriculture purposes and it’s surrounded by NAR-zoned property,” Thomey said.
Cecil County Planning and Zoning staff recommended the rezoning be denied, citing no mistake, while the planning commission recommended approval, citing a mistake.
Director of Planning and Zoning Eric Sennstrom told county council members Tuesday that solar farms are considered power generating facilities and they are currently allowed in heavy and light industrial zones along with northern and southern agricultural zones with a special exception.
Council President Robert Hodge and Councilman Dan Schneckenburger asked Sennstrom if the current county zoning laws need to be updated to handle items such as solar farms.
“Right now, I don’t think we have a problem,” Sennstrom said. “We seem to be coping fine.”
He compared the solar issue with cellphone towers in previous years, pointing out that they reach a saturation level.
“We can’t be proactive after the fact,” Hodge said, pointing out that he thinks solar farms don’t have a saturation point because the power can be sold all over the country. “We should address this early.”
“I hope we’re prepared,” he added.
A landowner on Red Toad Road near Port Deposit hopes to lease her property for a solar array farm.