PILOT grounded: County council rejects OneEnergy proposal

CAMBRIDGE — A PILOT was shot down Tuesday evening in Dorchester County.

The payment in lieu of taxes proposal that drew the ire of wary members of the North Dorchester Neighborhood Coalition at the Feb. 23 Dorchester County Board of Appeals meeting was very quickly rejected days later at the regular meeting of the Dorchester County Council. Consideration of the proposal from OneEnergy was a late addition to the agenda Tuesday.

On Feb. 23, the board of appeals met for the second time to consider a utility-scale solar panel project planned by OneEnergy Sunnee Bee Solar for more than 400 acres of property owned by Kimberlee Bisker and Blair Bisker. The property is near the town limits of historic East New Market along Md. Route 392, Linkwood Road, Richardson Road, and two scenic byways that run through the area. The land would be leased for 20 to 30 years, and includes a plan to decommission the solar panels and related infrastructure.

Representatives from OneEnergy and the landowners were seeking two special exceptions and a variance from the board of appeals. The meeting room was packed Feb. 23 with people who opposed the project. After a lengthy presentation from the applicants, and a round of questions from the board, the meeting was once again continued to a date that is yet to be determined.

During the Feb. 23 meeting, Arlo Corwin, chief development officer with OneEnergy Renewables, presented a PILOT proposal to pay an estimated $2.3 million across the life of the solar project. Mr. Corwin said the proposal was sent to County Council President Ricky Travers and Jeremy Goldman, county manager.

Speaking Feb. 25, President Travers said he and Mr. Goldman received the proposal by email on Feb. 22 and the council had not yet considered the PILOT by the time Mr. Corwin spoke Feb. 23. A little more than a week later, the council put the proposal to a vote.

“Last week, Wednesday afternoon late, we received a proposal from OneEnergy to enter into a PILOT,” Mr. Goldman said in introducing the subject at the Tuesday meeting. “… There’s been a lot of talk about this.This was an unsolicited proposal presented to us by them. Personally, I think it’s pretty low.”

After very brief comments from Mr. Goldman, Councilman Tom Bradshaw moved to reject the proposal. The council unanimously rejected the PILOT — another agenda item quickly completed by the council in its typical fashion.

Speaking Wednesday, Tracy Whitby-Fairall, one of the leaders of the NDNC, said she supports the council’s decision.

“We’re pleased that the council has chosen to reject OneEnergy’s PILOT proposal on the Sunnee Bee project. The North Dorchester Neighborhood Coalition looks forward to working with the council in the future on solar projects that are properly sited, without detrimental impacts to adjacent and neighboring property owners. We want to be part of the solution.”

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