Developer asks county to rezone Woodmont Road property for solar array

by Kate Shunney

A public hearing set for November in Hagerstown will allow the Washington County Board of Zoning Appeals to hear testimony about a request to rezone land west of Hancock for a 10-acre solar energy generating system.

Hancock MD #1 Solar LLC applied for a Special Exception Site Plan with the Washington County Division of Planning & Zoning on October 3. The application for rezoning was entered by representatives of the property owner, listed as Westernport Properties, LLC of Reno, Nevada, and developer, listed as Hancock MD #1 Solar LLC of Framingham, Mass.

In the application, the owners asked the company to grant an exemption for their 21.46-acre property, located at the intersection of Route 144 and Woodmont Road. The land currently has an “Environmental Conservation” designation.

Applicants noted that Washington County allows solar energy generating systems in Environmental Conservation zones.

Part of a site plan for a 10-acre Solar Energy Generating System along Woodmont Road, west of Hancock.

The property is “heavily buffered by vegetation” from nearby land, applicants told the county.

Once a Westvaco wood lot, the acreage has been vacant. Future construction of a solar array would use the existing access road that handled timber trucks when Westvaco used the land.

In describing the proposed solar energy generating system, the company said solar panels will be less than nine feet high, and will be screened by a buffer yard of at least 25 feet or more. Contractors plan to install a security fence around the 10-acre solar array.

“Once operational, the facility will not be visible from any residential property or from any public byway,” the developers wrote in their project description.

An electrical inverter will be housed on the site.

“While it may emit a low ‘hum’ when standing in close proximity, there will be no noise discernible from any surrounding road, property, or residence,” their application states.

Very little traffic will travel in and out of the site once it is complete. Contractors expect to take just three to four months to install the solar panels and accompanying equipment, the company said.

They noted in their application that up to 20 trucks per day used to access the land when it was a woodlot.

The developer told county officials in their application that the proposed solar energy generating system has an expected lifespan of 30-40 years, and there in a provision in their contract with the landowner to decommission the system at the end of their lease term.

Neighboring landowners were informed of the project and public hearing, and notice of the hearing was published in the Herald-Mail, said county officials.

The meeting was originally set to be held on October 26, but was postponed at the request of nearby landowners. A rezoning hearing will now be held on November 16 at 6 p.m. in County Commissioners Building, Room 2000 in Hagerstown.