TWENTYNINE PALMS — A prohibition on commercial solar field projects in the city and its sphere of influence areas was endorsed by the planning commission at its public hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 4.
The resolution to amend the development code, which is on its way to the city council, also provides tough standards for commercial solar fields should the council decide to permit them.
“I’m in favor of solar on homes, on businesses and on city-owned properties,” Commissioner Bill Easter stated. “But as a community, commercial solar fields are incompatible with the city of Twentynine Palms. I do not agree with solar fields at all in our community, and I think we should tell them why.”
Easter said his reasons were that the commercial projects bring no direct benefits in lasting jobs, they contribute to loss of potential property tax revenue and they create visual impacts.
Chairman Carey Alderson reminded the commission that when they originally recommended their position against the projects to the council, the council insisted that written standards in a code be drafted for their review.
Easter pointed to Section 4 in the draft resolution, prepared by Community Development Director Charles LaClaire, as the only section he supported in the code.
Section 4 states that with “all due respect for the task” and to the city’s efforts to promote consumer-based use of alternative energy, the commission concludes that the benefits to commercial solar projects “cannot be demonstrated.”
Conversely, the section declares that adverse impacts are evident to the desert vistas, tourism, adjoining property values, quality of life for the surrounding residents and “the biologic, cultural and social resources of our community.”
The small audience at the meeting vigorously clapped their hands in support of Easter’s stand.
Vice Chairman Greg Mendoza and commissioners Pamela Carmichael and Richard Banneck stood with Easter on Section 4.
Section 5 introduces the standards, with a statement of the commission’s objections. The section assigns the projects to very small portions of the city and sphere, mainly to the southeast corner where industrial is allowed. It also restricts “the collective total” for projects to 300 acres at a time.
During the public hearing, Jennifer Cusack, region manager of local public affairs for Southern California Edison, said that SCE considers each project individually. She also provided a map that divided Twentynine Palms into preferred “green” and non-preferred “red” areas due to available electrical load, capacity and distribution.
All of the subject area was red.
Cusack explained that the Leatherneck Substation Project is being built to provide additional capacity to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. And while upgrades to substations will benefit the community, “it does not appear to provide any additional capacity for solar.”
Alderson commented that a project such as the one on Lear Avenue might not have been permitted if the criteria being put forth had already been in place.
When it came time to vote, Mendoza, Easter and Banneck voted to approve the resolution.
Alderson abstained, later citing a vested interest due to his long history with writing the code and his opposition to the solar projects. However, he also hopes that the county will adopt the tough codes in Section 5 for the city’s sphere of influence areas.
Carmichael voted against the resolution because she felt Section 5 contradicted the commission’s objections as stated in Section 4.
“Although I respect the city council, we shouldn’t have these solar projects at all,” she explained.
Also going to the council is the commission’s final draft of the amendment to the development code for peddling/hawking/soliciting.
The public hearing for All N One Towing at 4949 Adobe Road will be continued to the Oct. 2 meeting.
The owners of a public nuisance property at 2650 Cholla Avenue will be issued a 10-day abatement notice.