The Montgomery County Food Council thanks the County Council and the stakeholders of the ZTA 20-01 Work Group for the time and thoughtfulness they have dedicated over the past few months to address community concerns and allow for the benefits of solar energy to be accessible in Montgomery County, while maintaining equitable opportunities for agricultural producers and enhanced local food access among all County residents. Our perspective on ZTA 20-01 takes into account the entire food system, including the critical need to address climate change, to strengthen the resilience of our local food production pipeline, and perhaps most importantly, given the continued emergency situation the pandemic has exacerbated, the need to ensure that all County residents have equitable access to nutritious, culturally appropriate food. This ZTA has the potential to address all of these food system priorities, if effectively and carefully crafted.
Although the Food Council does not support ZTA 20-01 as it is currently written, amendments addressing the following issues would better ensure that solar development in Montgomery County does not interfere with necessary food access and production opportunities afforded by the Agricultural Reserve, and possibly even strengthen our local food farming capacity:
- “Conditional Use” – Solar developments in the Agricultural Reserve should go through the “Conditional Use” application process, and be considered by the Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearing, with a representative of the Office of Agriculture reviewing the application to ensure that the project does not interfere with the intended use of the Agricultural Reserve;
- Equity – It is critical to ensure that farmers continue to have equitable access to land lease opportunities that support food production and expand the ability for new and historically disadvantaged farmers to establish farms in the Agricultural Reserve;
- Table Crop Agrivoltaics Pilot Programs– Agrivoltaic pilot programs are needed to provide farmers with an opportunity to learn more about the viability of this method of table crop production on their land, without the risk of financial losses;
- Use of Tax Revenue to Benefit the Agriculture Reserve – The amendment proposed by the Work Group to leverage tax revenues from solar developments to support local agriculture should be passed.
We encourage you to read our full letter, linked here. Updates related to this legislation will be reflected in our 2021 Policy Tracking document, linked here. Should you have any questions concerning this matter, please do not hesitate to contact Catherine Nardi at firstname.lastname@example.org