1. THE PROPOSAL FOR ALTA LOMA SOLAR FIELD IN THE FRIENDLY HILLS AREA OF JOSHUA TREE
From The Hi-Desert Star:
Solar application surfaces in south Joshua Tree
Posted: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 11:51 pm | Updated: 10:01 pm, Fri Jan 10, 2014.
By Courtney Vaughn, Hi-Desert Star
JOSHUA TREE — San Bernardino County recently received an application for a 24-acre commercial solar farm near Alta Loma Drive.
The proposed 4 1/2-megawatt project site encompasses 56 acres and two adjoining parcels immediately south of Alta Loma Drive and about 700 feet west of Olympic Road in an area zoned for rural living.
An initial study of the Alta Loma solar project is underway, Dave Prusch, a representative with the county’s Land Use Services Department, confirmed Tuesday. Property owners got notices about the project this week and have until Jan. 16 to submit comments.
Prusch said the project would require a conditional use permit, but it’s unclear whether an environmental impact report will be required. In most cases, he said, renewable energy projects of this size will be asked to provide a document called a negative declaration or a mitigated negative declaration, to state the project’s effects on the surrounding area and how the developer plans to compensate for those impacts.
Residents in the area say the site is rich with wildlife. Some reported seeing mountain lions and tortoise shells on the project site in recent months.
“The county will review a project’s location for any issues with habitat or something similar,” Prusch said.
Just last month, San Bernardino County supervisors approved a renewable energy ordinance that seeks to limit commercial solar development in residential areas. Prusch said county staff will review the initial study before making a recommendation to the Planning Commission. Property owners will be notified once the initial study is released and will be able to comment on the project before and during the Planning Commission’s consideration of the application.
The applicant, Clean Focus SBC Owner One LLC, applied for a conditional use permit through the county within the last three weeks, according to Prusch. The same company has an application on file for a 12-acre solar farm in Twentynine Palms on the corner of Raymond Drive and Mesquite Springs Road.
An agreement filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission indicates the project site may have been formerly owned by Canadian-based Coronus Solar Inc. or Coronus Energy Corporation. According to the financial document, which was executed in August, Coronus owned several parcels of land in Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms. Each parcel was intended for solar development. Coronus sold off nearly all of its assets, including those parcels, to Redwood Solar Development LLC.
A notice to property owners asks that all comments on the project application be directed to Chris Conner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. HOW TO GET INVOLVED – SEND LETTER OF COMMENT BY JAN. 16, 2014
From Bonnie Kopp:
Here is my opposition letter to the Friendly Hills solar project. I sent this last week to Chris Conner, the planner, as well as Supervisor Ramos’ staffers, Chris Carillo and Phil Paule. If you haven’t written yours, please feel free to borrow from this.
PO Box 824
Joshua Tree, CA 92252
January 6, 2014
RE: APN 0588-131-02
CF SBC Owner One LLC
Dear Mr. Connor:
I am writing to state my opposition to this application for a conditional use permit to establish a commercial photovoltaic solar power generating facility on a 56-acre site in Joshua Tree. The county has adopted an ordinance which would revise criteria for siting such projects, and the proposed facility violates many of these criteria.
The subject parcels are located adjacent to a wildlife linkage which is a major acquisition focus for the Mojave Desert Land Trust. The Trust has already acquired several parcels in the immediate vicinity which preserve the movement of wildlife between Joshua Tree National Park and the Bartlett Mountains in Joshua Tree. The largest of these is Section 33, 624 pristine acres containing 12,000 Joshua Trees, and habitat for the threatened desert tortoise, bobcat, golden eagles, fox and prairie falcons.
In addition to facilitating the movement of wildlife, Section 33 protects the important viewshed from Highway 62 south into Joshua Tree National Park. For the many tourists who are the lifeblood of our economy, this is the Gateway to Joshua Tree, a welcome respite after the strip mall and chain store developments of neighboring Yucca Valley. The proposed project will be clearly visible from the highway, destroying the vista of mountains, Joshua Trees and the National Park. It will also be visible from hiking trails inside the National Park, a violation of the ordinance.
The ordinance also requires that the proposed project not have an adverse effect on the desirability and future development of communities, neighborhoods and rural residential use. This project is situated between the densely developed Friendly Hills neighborhood and the National Park and other protected lands. It would constitute an unsightly, unwelcome commercial/industrial intrusion into a highly desirable residential, rural neighborhood.
For these reasons, staff and the Planning Commission must rule against this project.