Supervisors Lovingood and Ramos
Approve Defective Solar Ordinance


December 8, 2013

Supervisors approve solar ordinance.

      San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors on December 3, led by desert Supervisors Lovingood and Ramos of the First and Third county districts respectively, voted to approve new solar amendments to the county's development code that are highly deficient in protecting the county's rural residents from industrial solar facilities being placed within Rural Living (RL) zoned areas.

      According to a press release by Supervisor Lovingood, "the ordinance strikes a fair compromise between rural homeowners and developers of commercial solar projects."  The press release continued to quote Lovingood, "Overall, I think we are taking a balanced approach that is needed."


      Lovingood's press release misrepresents that the new ordinance "also incorporates many of the ideas offered during a series of public meetings."  The truth of the matter is, the ordinance completely ignored all of the public's input that was highlighted by residents before the Planning Commission, and later the supervisors.

      A press release by James Ramos states, "Results of public comments at those hearings have been incorporated into the draft ordinance."  Anyone who attended those hearings will confirm the complete opposite.

      The ordinance, as approved by the board, is identical to the original draft presented by county Planning before the Planning Commission without any of the numerous modifications and suggestions begged for by residents.

      Relying in blind faith upon the county's Land Use Services Department's director Terri Rahhal's description that the ordinance is "balanced," the code amendments that the supervisors approved lacks any form of public consensus.

      Photograph taken from Interstate-40 of the Newberry Springs' Mountain View Road solar installation illustrates the disruption of the natural viewshed.  The local economy of many rural areas depend heavily upon tourists seeking to experience the natural beauty and openness of the desert.

Solar code amendments deficient.

      A major key element ignored in the new ordinance is the continuing allowance of industrial solar facilities being placed in Rural Living zoned areas.  Such development will continue to be left to the discretion of Land Use Services that has intentionally riddled the new solar code with highly subjective wording that allows the department continued, unrestrictive authority to interpret the code loosely and do whatever it wants.

      This will allow the county department total flexibility to continue to work special corrupt back-room dirty deals with developers; such as waiving the costly removal of dozens of massive underground vertical pillars upon the decommissioning of an industrial solar facility that was recently constructed in Newberry Springs; a concession that will save the industrial plant owner many hundreds of thousands of dollars in future costs and current bonding.  The question for county residents is what motivates the department to giveaway such concessions?

Postmus' spirit still alive and well.

      As shown when the solar amendments went before the county's Planning Commission, the commission will rubber-stamp whatever is presented to it by Planning without the consideration of public input.  The process is followed by a thoughtless Board of Supervisors who then ignores the public in rubber-stamping that which is presented by the Planning Commission.  The public's due process of being involved continues to remain hog-tied by San Bernardino County's leadership.

      If the Board of Supervisors were serious about solar reform, they wouldn't tolerate the subjective, loose wording that allows the Land Use Services Department and the Planning Commission the option to interpret the solar guidelines however they want.  The new solar ordinance does little to stop Land Use Services from placing solar projects wherever it wants.

Moratorium served little purpose.

      The new solar code amendments read well if one is to follow the intent.  However, the wording is largely subjective and subjective isn't enforceable.  When such undefined wording is placed into an ordinance in bulk, it is intentional and for a reason.  Land Use Services has repeatedly demonstrated that its idea of 'balance' is anything pro-business; the ordinance appears written solely for feel-good consumption.  The new code's wording also appears written so that Land Use Services can maintain its lucrative control unfettered.

      Despite statements that the new ordinance will create a layer of protection for rural communities and natural resources, the ordinance is yet another sell-out by the Land Use Services Department that is supported by the county's puppet board of supervisors who are quick to factually accept whatever suggestions are feed them by Terri Rahhal.

      The pro-business Land Use Services Department soft peddles the massive industrial solar generating power facilities as "commercial," thereby trying to soften the image of the damage that the allowance of such huge industrial facilities have upon a residential neighborhood.

      Rural Living zoned property in the county has been reported to consist of approximately 100,000 acres.  The final reading of the ordinance will be December 17.  The ordinance will go into effect 30-days thereafter.

Solar ordinance creates de facto eminent domain.

      The Board by its actions will now likely force real estate brokers to disclose to all potential buyers the negative aspect that any Rural Living zoned property has the potential of being surrounded by industrial solar generating power facilities.

      The ramification from this ordinance is an eminent domain seizure of property value upon all Rural Living zoned parcels.  This loss of value has been estimated to be a minimum of 30-percent.  With the protection against adjacent or nearby industrial development being stripped from residential zoning, residential growth in communities such as Newberry Springs will be seriously hampered.

      The Newberry Springs Community Alliance has already made initial contacts with the county's Assessor's office seeking recognition of the massive impact that the new solar development code will have upon RL zoned parcels.  There may be justification for tax relief.  Inquiry into holding the county responsible for the eminent domain taking of property value has yet to be explored.


      The alternative energy moratorium was further disappointing in that it didn't seize upon the opportunity to strengthen the codes on wind energy generation that can have a far greater negative impact upon a community.

      Until the December 3 vote on the solar amendments, the Blotter has been very favorably impressed with both of the two newest supervisors.  However, their acceptance of the new solar ordinance as orchestrated by Terri Rahhal, and the Board's indifference to all public input that has gone into the code, represents arrogance and a sham that is only beneficial to outside developers and county staff.

      Troublesome, also, are the supervisors' untruthful press releases misrepresenting the ordinance; misrepresenting its impact upon the county; and misrepresenting the acceptance of residents' input into the ordinance's development.

Earlier related blog.

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