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Worcester County pulls back opposition to solar project on Snow Hill farmland

The Worcester County Commissioners have agreed to rescind a denial letter for a solar project in Snow Hill, officially settling an administrative appeal Chaberton Snow Solar LLC filed in circuit court late last year.

Solar project property

About 30 acres of a farm pictured on Timmons Road in Snow Hill is slated for a 4.0 megawatt community solar generating facility.

File photo

By Bethany Hooper, Associate Editor

Worcester County has agreed to rescind a denial letter for a solar project in Snow Hill, officially settling an administrative appeal Chaberton Snow Solar LLC filed in circuit court late last year.

Following an administrative appeal hearing on May 23, attorneys for both Worcester County and Chaberton reached a resolution regarding the review of a proposed solar project on Timmons Road. While the Worcester County Commissioners voted last year to not support the project, the county has since agreed to rescind its denial letter and issue no recommendation.

“One, we are very pleased that we were able to resolve this matter by the rescission of the prior denial letter dated November 21, 2023,” Mark Cropper, Chaberton’s attorney, said last week. “This will enable the application for a CPCN with the Public Service Commission to proceed without a procedural defect being reflected in the record. As such, to my knowledge, there is nothing negative in the record for the Public Service Commission to consider.”

In November, staff presented the commissioners with plans for a utility scale solar project on Timmons Road. The 7.54-megawatt project, developed by Chaberton, would occupy roughly a quarter of the 100-plus-acre farm owned by Charles Waite III.

While the project received a favorable recommendation from staff and the Worcester County Planning Commission, the commissioners voted 4-3 against it, and a subsequent letter was issued on Nov. 21.

To that end, Cropper filed an administrative appeal in Worcester County Circuit Court in December. Although the Maryland Public Service Commission has the ultimate authority over the project, Cropper said the commissioners’ opposition to the project had a negative effect on his client’s ability to secure a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN).

“My client and I were surprised, especially considering the extensive record that had been created through the CPCN process,” he said. “And at the public hearing, nobody testified in opposition to the project nor was any evidence introduced detrimental to the project.”

At the commissioner level, however, several officials expressed their concerns regarding the proposed project, with those in opposition questioning its decommissioning and disposal processes. While a new letter issued by the county last week offers no formal recommendation on the project, it reiterates the commissioners’ concerns.

“Subsequent to a public hearing held on November 7, 2023, and after a review of the

entire record, all pertinent plans and all testimony, the Worcester County Commissioners

expressed concern regarding the low estimated costs associated with the decommissioning bond, as well as the extent to which materials would be sent to the county’s landfill upon

decommissioning due to the limited salvaging and recycling efforts in place,” the letter reads.  “Ultimately, the County Commissioners give no recommendation related to this project.”

Worcester County Public Information Officer Kim Moses reiterated the county’s position this week.

“The commissioners took no action, meaning they did not give a recommendation,” she said. “The transmittal letter from staff, not the commissioners, clarifies what occurred at the public hearing.”

With the matter now settled, Cropper said his client will continue to work through the state’s approval process. The Public Service Commission held a virtual public hearing in April, during which no members of the public commented. A second, in-person hearing will be held in August.

“They will continue to complete the CPCN application process with the Public Service Commission and hopefully receive approval, which will then allow the project to come to fruition,” Cropper said. 

This story appears in the June 6, 2024, print edition of the Bayside Gazette.