County Again Circumvents Community's Input
Planning Division sneaks major proposal.

      Fence is property line of the Newberry Springs' Mountain View Road solar facility that was allowed by San Bernardino County to be placed into a residential zoned neighborhood.

Major draft ordinance on solar energy facilities by
county Land Use Services lacks final community input.

October 15, 2013

      The San Bernardino County's Land Use Services' Planning Division has once again circumvented Newberry Springs, and the High Desert, by releasing its proposed enhanced additions to the county code for the siting of renewable energy generation facilities.  The release of the draft plan was done on Friday, October 11, 2013, less than one week before it will be considered by the county's Planning Commission on Thursday, October 17, 2013. 

Planning Commission agenda - October 17, 2013. - (PDF - 3 pages)

      With county offices being closed Saturday, Sunday, and Monday for holiday, questions went unanswered until Tuesday, two days before the hearing.

      The quick submission to the Planning Commission will not allow community stakeholders the opportunity, as a whole, to review the document for changes prior to the Planning Commission considering it.  The Planning Commission meeting will start at 9 A.M.  The agenda items before the solar renewable energy item (No. 4) are expected to take one hour.  This places the proposed solar agenda item being started at about 10 A.M., just a few minutes before the 10:17 A.M. California GREAT SHAKEOUT! drill that will probably disrupt the meeting.

Solar energy staff report and proposed ordinance. - (PDF - 16 pages)

      For the most part, the Planning Division's proposal is actually better than expected.  It promotes numerous protections "to protect sensitive natural resources, safeguard existing and future neighborhoods and rural residential uses, and promote a vibrant tourist economy."

      Disappointing, however, are several omissions.  Despite the Community Alliance speaking at the workshop held on the subject on September 10, 2013, requesting that wind energy generation be included in the solar energy ordinance, only a brief mention (page 7, line 44) is commercial wind facilities briefly noted.  This is actually counterproductive in differentiating a separation between wind and solar; whereby, wind energy production facilities is not later mentioned in the ordinance.

      A legal interpretation of the ordinance would not likely include any restriction upon 400-foot wind towers being erected upon 2.5 acre Rural Living zoned parcels.

      Another flaw under Project Notice (page 14, line 209) mandates that notices of application for approval of commercial solar energy facilities be provided to the Municipal Advisory Council for the area.  This omits notices being sent to communities that operate under a Community Service District.

      The draft proposal also fails to address the full and complete removal of all materials, including deeply buried underground supports upon the termination, or lack of use, of a facility.

      Also not addressed are offsite support equipment, such as switches, inverters, transformers and substations that can create significant visual blight, noise, or nuisance to the community.  They can be placed in underground vaults or placed within blocked walls.

      Nothing in the ordinance addresses the consideration of financial and economic impact that a power generation facility may have upon nearby properties; or that dust palliative measures should be continued over the operation time of the facility and not just during construction whereat grading disturbs and removes the bacteria and native vegetation that holds the soil.

      And finally, the gut kicker, the proposal's inclusion that RL (Rural Living) zoned properties (line 50) be allowed for commercial renewable energy facilities.  This just doesn't make sense.  Industrial solar projects should not be placed onto or adjacent residential zoned property.

      The proposed code enhancements will have a significant and direct impact upon Newberry Springs' future regarding solar power installations.

      The county acquired a $700,000 grant from the California Energy Commission last June to assist in developing the proposed renewable energy policies into the county's General Plan.  The proposed plan is a step in the right direction; but it still needs fine tuning.  The total emphasis of the county's proposal has been on solar without the consideration of wind electrical generation that can be of far greater destruction to a community.

      A flawed plan should not be presented to the Planning Commission by the county's Planning Division's manager, Terri Rahhal.  The significance of this proposed ordinance amendment is far too important to rural desert communities like Newberry Springs, Morongo Valley, Joshua Tree, and dozens of others.  It should be done right the first time without an unnecessary rush.

      Public comments on record can be given at the above said Planning Commission hearing or in writing.  Written submissions must be received by Land Use Services no later than 5 P.M., Wednesday, October 16, 2013.  Send to the attention of Chris Conner, Senior Planner, San Bernardino County Land Use Services Department, 385 N. Arrowhead Ave., San Bernardino, California 92415-0187.  Due to the lack of time, it is best to e-mail comments before the deadline to:

Related past blog:

County solar workshop.

Click here to read, "Like,"
comment, or share on:
Newberry Springs

Follow us on Twitter and
be notified of new stories:
Newberry Springs Community Alliance
Home page: