SMITHSBURG — Most of the 10 residents who spoke during a public meeting Wednesday night about a proposed solar farm south of Chewsville were opposed to the project.
Opponents’ concerns included the view of solar panels, the use of farmland for solar panels, commercial traffic during construction and the effect on property values.
“I will get a petition going and hopefully this will be stopped,” Lenora Bywaters said. She said her parents bought a 65-acre farm on Kieffer Funk Road years ago for their kids to build their dream homes, which they did.
“Now you may not live around here. That is in my back door and I have a million-dollar view,” she said.
Bywaters is part of the Sowers family, which had several members attend the meeting at the Smithsburg Volunteer Fire Department.
The meeting was the first of two public comment meetings the Maryland Public Service Commission is having about Urban Grid’s proposal for an 11.8-megawatt solar-generating facility.
The latest design calls for the proposed project to use almost 60 acres at 11609 Kieffer Funk Road, said Dane Bauer with Delaware-based H&B Solutions. The firm is preparing an environmental assessment, which the developer must provide.
Bauer said the site was “probably one of the cleanest properties” he’s evaluated. It contains no wetlands or floodplains. No trees would be cut down, though the developer would have to plant trees if taking a farm out of service for a solar operation.
Jerry Cump, of the Robinwood area, said he’d like to see blue spruce instead of white pine because the latter looks “lousy” after about 20 years. Cump said he supports solar farms.
A filing with the state commission described the project as involving about 40,000 solar panels. Urban Grid Project Manager James Crawford Jr. said after the meeting that he didn’t know how many panels would be involved.
FirstEnergy needs to determine whether overhead or underground lines would connect the project to the grid, Crawford said. The power generated by the solar farm would go to electric users in the vicinity, he said.
“It’s cosmetically disagreeable to me,” Ronald Toothman said. Toothman, using an engineering drawing of the proposed project, pointed out how close his home is to the site for the solar farm.
“We chose to build in the country and now you’re going to ruin that. I’m not happy about it,” Cindy Sowers said.
Sowers said her home is closest to where the panels would go. Her grandchildren play in the backyard and she was concerned what would happen if they got hurt on the solar panels or equipment kept there during construction.
Crawford said after the meeting that a security fence would surround the solar farm.
Rick Sowers said a real-estate agent told him on Wednesday that a solar farm would “definitely” decrease his property’s value.
“So I am not for decreasing the value of my property when I need it the most in life,” he said.
Another public comment meeting will be held the evening of July 10 in the county, but a site has not been determined. More details about the project should be available before that meeting, officials said.