County Council deals with landfill and solar project

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CAMBRIDGE — At the June 7 Dorchester County Council meeting residents made their displeasure on the state of affairs at the New Beulah Landfill on Route 16 near Hurlock. Council was blamed for inaction, or the wrong action, in the past, leading to the current situation: the county must apply for a permit to increase the height of the landfill, or risk running out of capacity in the very near future and have to truck the county’s trash out of the region at great expense.

Residents spoke at the meeting, expressing outrage that the county is continuing to build a mountain of trash behind a proud veterans’ cemetery, and also questioning why the county doesn’t just expand horizontally. Council President Ricky Travers explained once again that the county does not hold title to the land necessary for a horizontal expansion, but is working on acquiring it. Also, that the county is working with a solution through the State of Maryland — which has created a moratorium on new landfill siting and expansion — and claims that the county is within sight of a solution to the landfill problem that will take care of the county’s need for the next 30 years. Mr. Travers also explained that the discussions and negotiations being held are sensitive enough that the county cannot openly discuss what plans are being worked on, lest publicity ruins progress on said plans.

Council promised that they are “very close to a solution,” according to Mr. Travers, and begged the residents to bear with them a little longer. The county is in contact with Annapolis and hopes for a long-term solution soon.

Council also heard from a citizens group from the East New Market area, very concerned about a new solar farm seeking approval for a project in the neighborhood of Linkwood Road and Route 392. The project, which is named the OneEnergy Sunnee Bee Solar LLC project, is said to be planned to produce 20 megawatts of electricity through the use of a photovoltaic array that will cover approximately 180 acres, creating likely the largest solar power project in Maryland.

Local residents, who heard about the project from a public meeting held at the East New Market firehouse, were alarmed by the fact that the solar panels would surround some houses in the area, and in at least one case site the structures 189 feet from one homeowner’s back door. Residents claim that the development company on the project offered to have the windows tinted in their houses, to reduce potential glare from the solar panels.

One resident, Cathy Collins of East New Market, offered the observation that the solar project would intrude upon the Harriet Tubman Byway, and all of the residents voiced their support for solar power in general, but not when it intrudes so closely upon their home and property. An example was made of the small solar project on Bucktown Road west of the airport, which was called an eyesore by all in attendance.

No permits have been applied for on the project as yet, and County Manager Jeremy Goldman noted that even if OneEnergy Renewables applied for permits tomorrow that it would be very unlikely that a project like this would be approved by the end of the year.

A public hearing also was held on the state of the new emergency generator project being pursued by the county. The emergency generator is intended to supply emergency power to Cambridge-South Dorchester High School in the event of a regional emergency, and allow use of the school as a shelter.

The generator, which is the size of a locomotive and is paid for entirely by the Maryland Department of Housing & Community Development, through a Community Development Block Grant and the Disaster Recovery Program, was completed and on its way to Dorchester when it encountered a low bridge on the highway and was severely damaged. The generator was carried back to the manufacturer, where it was completely dismantled and rebuilt, with a completely new housing and exhaust system, and then rigorously tested, and delivery re-attempted.

The good news is that the generator was delivered on June 10, and was set in place on June 13. Connection and final testing is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.

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