Corinth voters will decide whether the town should adopt a solar development moratorium and allow a medical cannabis store to open on Main Street during the annual town meeting later this month.
The temporary ban of commercial solar developments is designed to give the town 180 days — roughly 6 months — to draft rules and regulations for future commercial solar developments to protect residents’ quality of life and health and safety, according to the proposed ordinance.
The town drafted the proposed ordinance after Corinth saw “increased development pressure from commercial solar facilities” and residents expressed concerns regarding how future solar farms could impact adjacent property values, the environment and the aesthetics of the town, the ordinance reads.
Should Corinth halt solar projects, it’ll join other Maine communities, including Glenburn and Dixmont, that have instituted bans or restrictions on solar developments. Some towns have shown a hesitancy to use up available land that could support housing or agriculture, while others worry about how large solar farms would be decommissioned and disposed of appropriately in the future.
Maine has more than 620 solar projects statewide, which collectively generate just more than 7 percent of the state’s electricity, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The number of solar projects has increased in recent years after Gov. Janet Mills expanded the state’s net energy billing program and created incentives for solar projects in 2019.
The Corinth planning board has already approved three solar developments that connect to the Versant power grid in late 2020 and early 2021, according to Corinth Town Manager Stephen Fields.
Two of the developments each measure about 17 acres in size. One is on Main Street near the A.E. Robinson gas station and the other is at 120 Ridge Road, Fields said. The third is about 36 acres and is on Main Street near the Central Community Elementary School.
Glenburn residents voted last March to ban solar panel projects larger than 15,000 square feet. The rule doesn’t apply to small-scale solar installations on private or on small businesses’ property, such as roof-mounted arrays or ground projects smaller than 15,000 square feet.
In October 2021, Dixmont temporarily halted solar projects while the town crafted rules requiring developers to reserve funding to cover the costs of decommissioning solar panels when they reached the end of their lifespan.
Ellsworth and Augusta have also put holds on solar panel construction, citing concerns about overdevelopment and aesthetics.
In addition to the proposed solar moratorium, Corinth residents will also vote whether to approve a proposed medical marijuana caregiver store, Patriot Cannabis, at 352 Main St. near the intersection of Main Street and Exeter Road.
Maine has allowed the prescribing and limited possession of marijuana for medical purposes since 1999. Mainers voted in November 2009 to establish the Maine Medical Marijuana Act that formalized rules for the possession, sale, manufacturing, cultivation and testing of medical marijuana.
Caregivers in Maine are allowed to operate one retail store to sell cannabis to patients who use it for medical purposes, according to state law.
While Corinth prohibited retail marijuana stores, manufacturing and testing sites in 2017, the town has two marijuana stores that were grandfathered under statute changes, Fields said.
The town meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 21 at 7 p.m. in the Central Middle School cafeteria. The official warrant for the annual meeting will be available for review in the coming days, Fields said. Voting on Corinth’s municipal election will be held Monday, March 20 in the town office conference room from 1 to 8 p.m.