San Bernardino County Supervisors reject Apple Valley solar farm
San Bernardino County Sun (CA), 2014-08-06
Aug. 06 -- SAN BERNARDINO -- County supervisors on Tuesday rejected an appeal of a Planning Commission decision to prohibit the building of a solar farm in Apple Valley , concurring that the project did not comply with development standards and that the site was poorly located.
"Renewable energy projects must be carefully and thoughtfully located. This is not the right location for this project," Supervisor Robert Lovingood said in a statement following Tuesday's meeting.
The board voted 3-2 to uphold the Planning Commission's denial for the projects. Supervisors Janice Rutherford and Gary Ovitt voted against denying the project.
Sunnyvale -based Clean Focus proposed building a 3-megawatt solar-generating facility on 23 acres on the southeast corner of Central and Tussing Ranch roads , in a sparsely populated area of Apple Valley . The county Planning Commission in June denied Clean Focus' application for a conditional use permit on grounds that the project, which is within Apple Valley's sphere of influence, was inconsistent with both Apple Valley's development guidelines and the county's recently adopted solar ordinance.
Apple Valley Assistant Town Manager Lori Lamson said Tuesday that the town's development standards for solar power generating facilities is in industrial zones or dry lake beds, not areas zoned rural/residential, which is where Clean Focus proposed building the facility.
Project proponents said the proposed solar farm would not have any significant impacts on the surrounding environment, would create jobs, assist in meeting the renewable energy targets for retail sellers of electricity in California , and was even supported by the Center for Biological Diversity because it was being built on land already surrounded by development.
And there is no evidence to support the assumption that the project would negatively impact property values, said Matt Coleman , executive vice president of project finance for Clean Focus. He said his company has already spent $500,000 on the project and had received mostly favorable feedback from the community.
Clean Focus even took additional steps to mitigate potential impacts on views by increasing the distance of the solar facility from roads and reducing solar panel height, Coleman said.
Members of Laborers International Union Local 783 were also in attendance at Tuesday's meeting in support of the project, saying it would create 50 construction jobs.
"Job creation is and should be the highest priority of the county," said Richard Sierra Jr ., business manager of LIUNA Local 783 .
Opponents who live near the proposed project site said the jobs would only be temporary, whereas the project's impacts would be permanent for residents. They said a solar farm was not a good fit for the area and would decrease property values, create glare and spoil views.
"To install a 23-acre solar generating facility in a residential area is simply inappropriate," said resident Tracy Walters , who lives a half mile south of the proposed project site.
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