From Montgomery County Council: ‘Stakeholder’ Engagement for Solar in the Agricultural Reserve

From Montgomery County Council: ‘Stakeholder’ Engagement for Solar in the Agricultural Reserve

Montgomery County Council released a plan for additional stakeholder engagement on a zoning proposal, ZTA 20-01, Solar Collection System – AR Zone Standards, that removes the prohibition on community solar on 1,800 of the more than 90,000 acres of land in the Agricultural Reserve.

On Oct. 13, the Montgomery County Council held a worksession to review recommendations from the joint Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) Committee and Transportation and Environment (T&E) Committee on ZTA 20-01. This zoning change had a public hearing on March 3, 2020 and three joint PHED and T&E Committee meetings before full Council consideration.

After discussion, the Council reached a consensus on conducting additional stakeholder engagement before bringing the proposal back to the joint committees for consideration of any amendments and then to the full Council for final action in January 2021.

To that end, Council President Katz and PHED Chair Hans Riemer will lead a series of stakeholder meetings this fall, beginning in early November. The first session will be a virtual town hall meeting, led by Council President Sidney Katz and PHED Chair Riemer, where stakeholders will be given the opportunity to share their views on solar in the Agricultural Reserve and suggest amendments to ZTA 20-01. The virtual town hall will be on Nov. 5 at 7 p.m.

Community members who wish to participate can register in advance for this webinar here. After registering, a confirmation email will be sent containing information about joining the webinar.

It is then anticipated that a workgroup consisting of individuals representing stakeholders will be formed. Assisted by Council staff, meetings of the stakeholder workgroup will occur in November (and December, if necessary) to discuss in greater detail the issues surrounding solar on farmland and proposals to amend ZTA 20-01. Stakeholders and Councilmembers are asked to submit amendments in writing to Council staff, so that proposed amendments can be organized and posted online. The town hall meeting and subsequent stakeholder workgroup meetings will all be held virtually, and will be open to the public.

Council staff will prepare a summary of the stakeholder meetings for the joint PHED and T&E Committee, including all amendments received by the stakeholder workgroup. The Joint Committee will carefully consider the record of the stakeholder sessions, and will then vote on any amendments proposed by committee members in early January 2021.

The joint PHED and T&E Committee recommendations will be sent to the full Council for final action. The Council will vote on any additional amendments that Councilmembers may propose before taking final action on ZTA 20-01 in January 2020.

Read the Potomac Almanac’s stories on the issue: