About two dozen citizens gave the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors their views on the proposed ordinance regulating commercial solar power generation projects, with about half doing so via the teleconferencing facility in Joshua Tree. Reporter Dan Stork observed proceedings from the county government building in Joshua Tree and files this report…
The public hearing on the commercial solar ordinance began with a summary of the measure by Teri Rayhal, from the County’s Land Use Services Department. She said that the focus of her staff in preparing the ordinance was to define criteria for suitable sites, to reduce or minimize impacts, and to establish standards. The ordinance sets a fee of $157 per acre per year for projects of 15 or more acres. Rayhal added that the ordinance is the first step in the regulation process, to be followed by an update to the County’s General Plan in 2015.
During the public comment period, many speakers expressed qualified approval of the ordinance—or at least of the process leading to it—with many specific reservations. Among the concerns raised by environmentalists were the inclusion of RL (Rural Living) land zones among those in which solar projects may be sited; the interpretation of “significant impacts”; how protected wildlife corridors are to be determined; water usage standards; how the ordinance will be applied in the interim before amendment of the County General Plan; lack of details relating to wind hazards and dust control; the extent of the public notification radius around projects; and the shortness of the public review period.
A Southern California Edison representative asked that publicly regulated utilities be exempted from the ordinance. A solar developer and a ranch owner who has contracted for a project on his property questioned how the fee will be determined. Following public comment, the Supervisors voted 4-0 (with Janice Rutherford absent) to approve the ordinance, with final approval scheduled for the next meeting, December 17. With approval comes the end of the moratorium on project development, despite the pleas by several speakers to extend it.