Desert Acquires A Victory Planning Commission Supports Original Policy 4.10
Pictured (L to R) are Commissioners Raymond Allard, Chairman Jonathan Weldy, Audrey Mathews, and Paul Smith.
Posted: May 28, 2018
County citizens count an important initial win.
When the vote came down, the county's residents got what they wanted, the
Planning Commission's 4 to 0 support of a County policy that protects rural communities from
utility-scale solar development.
The Policy 4.10 was originally part of the County's Renewable Energy
Conservation Element that was passed by the Board of Supervisors on August 8, 2017, but the
Policy, to restrict utility-scale solar from Rural Living zoning (RL), was removed before the vote
to be first considered by the Planning Commission.
What the Planning Commission approved May 24, 2018, was the original
August version with the addition of a request by Commissioner Raymond Allard.
In order to acquire Allard's support for the original Policy 4.10,
the Commission backed Allard's suggestion that the Supervisors consider whether the
geographic area covered by Policy 4.10 might be too large.
Commissioner Allard's only concern with the original Policy 4.10
appeared to rest upon the large amount of the High Desert land that RL
zoning encompasses. He felt that excluding utility-scale solar upon all RL
zoning might place too much of a restriction upon the solar industry.
It isn't known if Allard understood that the solar industry has approximately
400,000-acres being set aside for solar development by the federal Desert Renewable
Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP). 400,000-acres of developable land
is far more than the industry needs, but naturally, the industry wants to lobby for more.
Particularly, for residential land where it would be cheaper and more profitable to build
for corporate profits.
A problem with Commissioner Allard's suggestion lies in the fact that
it represents a form of social discrimination and a form of eminent domain that was clearly
a part of the Policy 4.10 alternatives that were later developed by Land Use Services (LUS)
and offered as alternatives to the Commission. Although the Commissioners did not appear
to focus upon the legal ramifications of LUS's alternative proposals, the Commissioners vote
has saved the County potential litigation.
A large number of residents turned out for the Planning Commission's meeting
on May 24, 2018, in the city of San Bernardino. Additional residents participated in
the meeting via electronic connection from Joshua Tree and Hesperia.
Whether the Supervisors will follow Allard's suggestion and open the
can-of-worms as to who should and should not be protected by the original Policy 4.10
remains to be seen. Actually, whether the Supervisors even accepts the Planning
Commission's recommendation of Policy 4.10 remains in question.
Obviously, the solar industry will continue to push the Supervisors for
an alternative to Policy 4.10 and will continue to pursue Conditional Use Permits for the
solar sites that they rushed to file applications for. Terri Rahhal, director of LUS,
stalled the Policy 4.10 from going before the Planning Commission for 9-months which
allowed the filing of a number of solar applications.
Terri Rahhal goes rogue.
Contrary to the direction given to LUS at the Supervisor's board
meeting on August 8, 2017, simply to have Policy 4.10 reviewed by the Planning
Commission, Rahhal took it upon herself to contact the major corporate solar players
and she secretly prepared drastic alternatives to Policy 4.10 for them. She then
presented them to the Planning Commission as alternative possibilities.
Despite years of public discussions that had been used to develop Policy
4.10, and that discussion had been earlier formally closed, Rahhal quietly reopened the
discussion solely with the solar industry and denied public input. The practices of
corruption within LUS continues to severely taint the county's image.
Sand Transport Paths.
Large sections of the county's RL zoning are located in Sand Transport Paths.
These are natural areas that sand and dust move in great volumes when the wind blows.
The dust is very hazardous to living creatures who inhale it.
To highlight the significant health hazards of placing
utility-scale solar developents in Sand Transport Paths, the Newberry Springs
Community Alliance produced a short 3-minute video for the Commissioners to view to
understand the problem. This is apparently the first time that a public video
has been requested to be shown at a Planning Commission meeting.
Ted Stimpfel, of Newberry Springs, contacted LUS to arrange the
video presentation during the hearing. LUS staff stated that there shouldn't
be a problem provided the Planning Commission's chairman consented to it.
Stimpfel then contacted Chairman Jonahan Weldy, a First District appointee.
Weldy originally consented and stated that he would speak with LUS to arrange the
presentation. Later, Stimpfel received an e-mail from Weldy with a denial.
It appeared to Stimpfel, with Weldy's original acceptance,
that LUS had denied the request, however, Stimpfel was wrong. During a
break in the May 24th Planning Commission hearing, Stimpfel learned directly
from Weldy that Weldy himself had changed his position and denied the video.
Was the denial proper?
Weldy's decision to prohibit the video was out of a logical concern
that if a precedent was established to show promotional videos, a war of videos
could ensue where small entities (such as communities) would be far outplayed by
major corporations who could outspend on glossy, slick productions. Weldy's
reasoning is reasonably validated.
The Newberry Springs Community Alliance's video, however, isn't a
promotion. It represents vitally important evidence regarding the health and
welfare of county residents that needed to be presented during the hearing for all
the Commisioners to understand the atmospheric and health problems. Denial of
the Newberry Springs Community Alliance to present the evidentiary facts during a hearing
is believed to be a violation of State and U.S. Constitutional Rights of citizens to
address their representatives.
As video plays a growing part in society, denial of public video in
LUS hearings needs further attention. Terri Rahhal used a PowerPoint presentation
for the better part of a half-hour to illustrate her recommended alternatives, yet the
public was discriminately denied a 3-minute evidentiary video. The County needs
to visit the issue and establish a balance where the public is guaranteed their rights.