Supervisor Robert Lovingood
Continues Damaging Votes
That Hurt Newberry Springs

    In June 2014, this corner property at National Trails Highway and Nopal Lane looked spacious and clean like this.  That was before Supervisor Robert Lovingood went against Newberry Springs community activists and approved the rezoning and a Conditional Use Permit to allow industrial-scale Big Rig towing and storage operations in the largely residential neighborhood.  Today, Newberry Springs' No. 1 tourist corner at National Trails & Nopal has an unimaginable Lovingood eyesore.  What else has Robert Lovingood done to bring prosperity to Newberry Springs?

Newberry Springs Is Being Badly Represented

Commentary by TedIStimpfel

Posted: November 6, 2017

Vickie Paulsen contributes to the problem.

    Non-publicly elected (appointed) Newberry Community Services District board member Vickie Paulsen, on October 26, 2017, presented herself as representing Newberry Springs at the Countywide Plan EIR Scoping Meeting.  The meeting was held at the county's Board of Supervisors' chamber in the city of San Bernardino with some speakers participating via video-feed from Hesperia and Joshua Tree.

    Despite Paulsen's short presentation having some good points, she held no authority to voice into the official record what the community of Newberry Springs wants.

    Paulsen's presentation centered on the Board of Supervisors' earlier public meeting adopting the Renewable Energy & Conservation Element (REC Element) held on August 8, 2017.

    The REC Element is a new energy ordinance for the county's upcoming General Plan update.  The adoption of the REC Element will have a significant impact upon the High Desert as it establishes the criteria for where future industrial-scale alternative energy projects can be located on private county regulated land.  This does not impact federal, state, nor city incorporated lands but everywhere else, like Newberry Springs; and Newberry Springs is already being actively targeted by industrial-scale solar developers.

    (Yawn) Yes, this is boring stuff but this impacts you if you live or invest in Newberry Springs.  Read further to learn how Newberry and other rural communities are being screwed by county government !

The helpful regulatory section for Newberry was deleted.

    An extremely important part of that new REC Element (ordinance) was a regulatory section that would have prohibited large alternative energy facilities from communities with a community plan and would have prohibited siting upon rural living (RL) zoning.  Newberry Springs is largely comprised of RL zoning and it has a community plan in development.  Thus, this section of the proposed General Plan update was expected to help Newberry Springs from being overrun by industrial solar developments.

    This very important section had been placed into the proposed energy element after many countywide public meetings were held where residents had strongly voiced their desire for the section to protect their lifestyle and communities from being negatively impacted by outside energy developers.

    At the end of nearly 60 public speakers at the August 8th public hearing, Third District Supervisor James Ramos immediately motioned to remove the protective Policy 4.10 from the board's vote.  Disappointedly, First District Supervisor Robert Lovingood quickly supported the motion and the other supervisors followed their lead.  After over 5-hours of public testimony, the speed at which Ramos quickly asserted the removal of the protective section appeared to be by prior arrangement.  Lovingood's quick support echoed that strong prearranged appearance.  Lovingood's record has mostly supported big business over the desires of the local communities.

    The REC Element hearing rooms in San Bernardino on August 8, 2017, were filled with standing room only.  The rooms were so full that the fire code prevented entrance to dozens of attendees.

    By forcing alternative energy facilities upon rural communities, the Supervisors have again slammed Newberry Springs while promoting their own political interests.  They are not allowing communities to define their own destiny.

Newberry's support for Lovingood should be questioned.

    While Lovingood has considerable support from Newberry Springs, Newberrians need to scrutinize the damage that Lovingood has caused the community.  Lovingood's support for big businesses that support his political ambition has directly conflicted with Newberry's overall best interests.

Newberry's Community Plan

    Newberry's latest Community Plan, being prepared as part of the Countywide Plan, appears to be headed to the toilet.  What was launched by the county to provide communities with a greater participation in the policies of the upcoming General Plan update is already falling apart.

    The local Community Plans under the wing of the Countywide Plan are supposed to give rural communities the opportunity to develop their long-term aspirations (10 to 20 years) in the manner that the communities desire, and this was to be webbed into the policies of the General Plan.  However, the county's staff has apparently woken-up to the fact that the county might be giving up more control than staff wants.  (County staff wants total control over the peasants.)

    So, the county has now downgraded and "repositioned"  Community Plans from policy extensions of the General Plan to "re-envisioned"  short-term action plans for communities to perform by themselves.  In short, no helpful regulatory support on policy and only a few token B.S. template guidelines for the communities to do it on their own.

    The outcome of the extensive work of separate policies and goals of approximately two dozen individual Community Plans are now going to be dumped ("consolidated") into one meaningless stew called the Central Policy Plan.  The county now claims that communities want short-term focus.

    No!  The communities have not been asking for short-term focus.  The communities have been crying out for long-term community planning for economic development with the county's contributing support.  Currently, the county's regulations, practices, and fees are smothering rural progress.  The county staff with deaf ears is now arrogantly dictating to the communities what the communities are supposed to want.  It is the culture that is embedded in the Land Use Services Department.

    The direction of the county's Community Plans is near worthless.  They offer communities little more than what the communities can do themselves.  It was hoped that the plans would have the county as a partner to address and remedy many of the problems and obstacles that the communities have with county government.

Community Plan:

Vickie Paulsen's Testimony

    Rather irksome at the October 26th meeting on the Countywide Plan's EIR Scoping was Vickie Paulsen's testimony inviting solar energy development:

    "Now in Newberry we are not opposed to solar energy, we've got plenty of sun and land to spare, but we want each proposed project to be subjected to a strict EIR that will address the tender desert environment that is so easily disrupted by any change in the understory, and we want the ERA (sic) to respect the desire of residents to preserve their quality of life and viewscape from fields of solar panels the height of 4 to 6-story buildings."
Paulsen's presentation on October 26, 2017:

    Now, perhaps Paulsen doesn't want to be viewed like an obstructionist by stating that "in Newberry, we are not opposed to solar energy, we've got plenty of sun and land to spare,"  but she is opening the door to destructive foreign developers like French-based Soitec.  Like a crack in a dam, weak appeasement only invites disaster.

    Perhaps, Paulsen also doesn't understand the full ramifications of the Supervisors' August 8, 2017, vote.  Paulsen asks that all projects have a strict EIR review, but that is now a thing of the past.  The Land Use Services Department is going to be able to place almost everything, whether it qualifies or not for fast-tracking, into the EIR preapproved category.

    Proper EIR studies now appear to be history as the broad perimeters of the predisposed EIR factors under the REC Element will reign.  By Supervisors Lovingood and Ramos eliminating the protection portion for rural communities, Newberry Springs, and other desert communities are screwed unless they can raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for legal challenges, and the state courts strongly lean to favor government positions.

    More practical would be to raise public awareness and vote the political scoundrels out-of-office and acquire representation that corrects the damages being done by Lovingood and Ramos.

    Paulsen's presentation also took to task many of Soitec's failures to uphold its Conditional Use Permit (CUP) conditions at the Mountain View Road solar site.  Unfortunately, Paulsen failed to address the bigger problem of the county's Land Use Services Department's failure to enforce the CUP conditions that it places upon developments such as the Newberry Soitec site and the Big Rig tow and storage yards on National Trails Highway that would help mitigate the blight and other damages.

Needed change.

    Newberry Springs' community representatives and the Board of Supervisors should all be on the obstructionist's platform.  Teamwork is needed.  According to the guidelines for the EIR, an alternative plan to industrial-scale alternative energy development can be a No Plan Alternative.  To qualify, an alternative needs to reduce or eliminate a significant environmental damage and it must present a potential alternative to reasonably meet a majority of the original project's objectives.

Alternatives for Renewable Energy in the Countywide Plan:

    Alas, there is a legitimate No Plan Alternative to industrial-size energy siting, however, it appears unpopular with certain politicians who have been benefiting from industrial funding sources.

The Alternative Plan.

The No Plan Alternative is to totally abandon industrial-scale alternative energy development in the desert in favor of localized Distribution Solar (Rooftop Solar).

    The benefits of Rooftop Solar at the point-of-use is an environmentally superior alternative to industrial-scale solar destroying the desert.  The short-term industrial-scale jobs that would be lost are also outweighed by the creation of Rooftop Solar jobs and the jobs maintained through tourism.

    A UCLA study has substantiated that there is enough Rooftop Solar potential in Los Angeles County alone to meet the state's progressive alternative energy mandates for the region without the need of desecrating the desert.  This UCLA rooftop study doesn't even include the potential for solar carports nor the already existing projects on disturbed lands.  This independent study clearly shows that the proposed huge solar facilities in the desert are not even needed.

    Unfortunately, federal politicians have corruptly favored directing billions of dollars to industrial-scale alternative energy developers who support the politicians' campaign chests.  The losers are the taxpayers who are not being given improved incentive support to install their own Rooftop Solar that increases their own property value.  The County of San Bernardino is a big enough, and an important enough player, to push back.

    The Board of Supervisors, especially Supervisors Lovingood and Ramos who represent the targeted desert areas for alternative energy development, and self-appointed representatives like Vickie Paulsen, should be advocating the desires of the public against industrial-scale solar anywhere that damages the desert and the viewsheds that attract tourists.  Tourism being one of the most important economic drivers in San Bernardino County.

    A No Plan Alternative of Rooftop Solar, instead of industrial-scale facilities, is a sensible alternative that county government should be advocating.  It would protect the desert's environment and rural communities.  There is no reason why Lovingood and Ramos couldn't have protected Newberry Springs from runaway solar development, or have voiced a Distribution Solar (Rooftop Solar) only platform.

The Renewable Energy & Conservation Element (with the omitted protective section) will be attached to the General Plan without further EIR review:

Fast-Tracking the desert's destruction.

    Similar to the focus of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), the emphasis of the county's energy element being attached to the General Plan is to facilitate the streamlining of the application, siting, and approval process of large alternative energy development; and to avoid full CEQA and associated EIR studies.  None of which protects the desert and rural communities.

Streamlining Applications To Avoid Detailed Scrutiny:

    The emphasis by the county has been to protect the interests of the solar developers over those of the residents, their communities, and the desert.  This is so out-of-whack!  We can no longer tolerate the abuse.  Nor trust those in office to do the right thing.

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