Posted: September 28, 2019
Newberry Springs Community Alliance
An editorial by Ted Stimpfel
Those who attended the Newberry CSD's meeting on September 24, 2019, were
treated to a surprise. A glorious full bloom example of wonderful
democracy in action.
Having unsuccessfully crusaded alone for a long time trying to get
CSD funding allocated to fight the Daggett Solar Power project, I arrived at the September
CSD's lion cage expecting to be once again devoured and spat out-the-door.
Remarkably, there was fresh meat in the cage. Lots of it!
Newberry Springs had turned-out to fight solar!
Five days earlier, the county's Planning Commission certified the
Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the solar project. This certification
is destined to be scheduled before the Board of Supervisors for their usual
rubber-stamp project approval and the issuance of construction permits.
This solar project is disastrous for Newberry. The project
needs to be challenged and that means challenging the FEIR.
The biggest problem in doing that is time. Ten calendar days
from the Planning Commission hearing! That is the only time allotted by law to
file an FEIR appeal. Because the 10th day in this matter falls on a Sunday,
the final filing date is Monday, September 30th.
Newberry CSD director Jack Unger made a courageous move. He
stepped-up and broke rank with the CSD's previous obstinance and he immediately
placed the question of doing an appeal on the CSD's agenda. This would be the
community's last opportunity to effectively address the project.
While technically the public can voice disapproval when the
Planning Commission's certification and the project goes before the Supervisors
for approval, reversal there is very unlikely. Each of the five Planning
Commissioners is appointed by a Supervisor and the Commissioners usually reflect
the desire of the Supervisor that appointed them. The Planning Commission
certification of the FEIR was by a 5-0 vote.
Word of the CSD's upcoming agenda item was spread through social
media news and posted flyers. Neighbors speaking to neighbors.
On short notice, Newberry residents were recognizing the impact
that the project would have on them and the critical importance of the agenda item.
The solar dust was settling in.
Director Jack Unger, as the author of the agenda item, introduced the
item and concerns held by the board. The concerns centered on filing procedures
and liability exposure. Fortunately, the audience included authoritative
expertise that dispelled the concerns.
After a number of speakers, a quick poll of the audience was
taken which appeared to be 100% for the CSD filing an appeal. Despite one
board member still having trouble reading the sentiment of those attending, the board
unanimously voted to release $1,331 for the filing fee and under Chairman Robert
Springer's direction an additional amount for possible professional assistance.
If the appeal before the Board of Supervisors is upheld, the
FEIR will be returned to the county's Land Use Services Department for
corrections of the FEIR's deficiencies before being recycled to the Planning
Commission for approval. This should help to address and mitigate many
of the negative impacts of the project. (The project should be rejected
outright for its violation of County Code.)
Should the Supervisors reject the CSD's appeal, the project will
be scheduled for public hearing before the county Supervisors for approval.
The Supervisors' decision can be appealed to the courts.
In leaving the meeting, I felt something that I haven't felt
for a while. Pride in Newberry Springs. Pride in its people.
The community has a chance to survive. While nearly flat-lining,
the community's hope against solar havoc has been jump-started.
This would not have happened if Jack Unger hadn't stepped forward.
This would not have happened if each of those who attended the meeting had not
shown-up. And the appeal certainly would not have happened if the board members
had not carefully listened to their constituents and recognized the dangers
that face the community.
People attending CSD meetings do make a difference.
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