The Frederick County Board of Zoning Appeals met Thursday evening to discuss three proposed solar energy farms, including the proposed solar arrays on former Walkersville Burgess Ralph Whitmore’s farm on Biggs Ford Road.
Mr. Whitmore’s farm and a proposed solar farm at Ballenger Creek Pike and East Basford Road both lie on property in priority preservation areas.
The Ballenger Creek Pike and East Basford Road property was the first solar farm on the agenda. After hearing testimony from the developer, Tony Checchia, a local realtor and entrepreneur, spoke on behalf of a group of property owners including his parents. They opposed the use on agricultural land in a priority preservation area. Another neighbor spoke against the use and discussed the negative economic impact on properties in the area.
Mr. Wayne Robinson, member of the Board of Appeals, stated that he could not see how solar panels could meet the goals of the priority preservation area. “When I think of agriculture, I think of hay, cows, deer, and trees,” he stated. All members agreed and some suggested the applicant request a wait, except for Mr. The members of the Board of Appeals denied the application, because they felt it was not an allowed use on land in a priority preservation area.
The Biggs Ford Solar Farm developers presented their plans to the Board of Appeals. They did not commit to a right of way for Dublin Road. Ralph Whitmore asked when his property was placed in a Priority Preservation Area. The Board responded that it was identified as a PPA in 2010. Mr. Whitmore was not aware of this.
The Frederick County Health Department commented on the project. The Health Department noted that any blasting could impact surrounding wells due to the geology of the Walkersville area. The developers noted that they do not plant to blast to drive the posts into the ground for their solar panels.
Developers could not answer how their development was different from the previous property which was denied due to its location in a Priority Preservation Area.
Representatives discussed their case in private. The developers then asked for a continuance of three to six months to discuss how to address the issue of a Priority Preservation Area. The Board of Appeals voted to grant a continuance of six month for the applicants.