Ag Boundaries Modified for SMECO Project

Prince Frederick, MD - 12/6/2011

By Marty Madden

The Calvert County Commissioners unanimously approved the modification of the boundary of two parcels owned by Southern Maryland Electrical Cooperative (SMECO). The tracts are located in Lusby and enrolled in Agricultural Preservation Districts (APDs). Since the parcels are subjected to perpetual covenants, the commissioners must approve any changes.

The commissioners’ action to modify the boundary occurred Tuesday, Dec. 6 during the board’s regular weekly meeting.

“SMECO is building a new electric utility substation and switching station,” stated Department of Planning and Zoning Rural Planner Veronica Cristo, who explained the construction will take place on the larger parcel, which is 16.67 acres. That parcel is not subject to the APD covenants and will be removed from the preservation program soon. The utility is replacing land from the covenanted area that will be used for access to the two facilities and to address stormwater management requirements.

The planned construction, known as the Sollers Wharf project, will serve as a major lynchpin for SMECO’s Reliability Project. A facility at Holland Cliff will be linked to the Sollers Wharf stations, which will subsequently be linked to a facility on Hewitt Road in St. Mary’s County.

“The Agricultural Preservation Advisory Board recommends that the Board of County Commissioners approve this request,” Cristo stated. “Their recommendation is based on the fact that this is in support of a public utility for a project that has a certificate of public need and will benefit the entire Southern Maryland region. The Agricultural Preservation Advisory Board also found the enhanced public safety for the access drive persuasive and appreciated the area of land being added to the APD was of better timber quality than what was being removed, resulting in a slight agricultural benefit.”

“This is a real good thing for the Sollers Wharf switching station,” said SMECO spokesman Tom Dennison, when the pending action was discussed during the staff session prior to the commissioners’ regular meeting.

According to SMECO’s web site, the Holland Cliff and Sollers Wharf projects will be taking place during 2012 and 2013 followed by the Sollers Wharf to Hewitt Road project in 2014. The Reliability Project is scheduled to be completed by 2015.

The Maryland Public Service Commission has issued a Certification of Public Convenience and Necessity for the project in September 2009.

During the staff meeting, Dennison reported that SMECO has sent out over 300 letters to residents living adjacent to the project’s right-of-way. “We’ve tried to be up-front with as many people as we can,” said Dennison.

SMECO officials are hoping to break ground on the Sollers Wharf project this spring.

Of the APD modification, Commissioners’ President Susan Shaw said, “this improves the safety of the access.”

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com