Article

Planners reject wind farm appeal

The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission denied a Lompoc resident's attempt to waylay an alternative energy project Wednesday, but approved the first step for a senior housing development in Old Town Orcutt. The commission unanimously denied an appeal that took issue with temporary meteorological towers that are part of a renewable wind-energy project southwest of Lompoc.

The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission denied a Lompoc resident's attempt to waylay an alternative energy project Wednesday, but approved the first step for a senior housing development in Old Town Orcutt.

The commission unanimously denied an appeal that took issue with temporary meteorological towers that are part of a renewable wind-energy project southwest of Lompoc.

In February, the wind farm was approved by the county Board of Supervisors with a list of conditions, some of which were time sensitive.

However, a lawsuit filed by George and Cheryl Bedford against the county and its approval stalled the project, forcing the developer to request a time extension for four temporary meteorological towers.

The couple, whose property is bordered on three sides by potential sites for the nearly 400-foot-tall wind turbines, also appealed the Planning and Development Department's approval of the time extension.

George Bedford claimed Wednesday that the time-extension approval, which also included reducing the number of permanent meteorological towers from 10 to one, was significant enough to require an additional environmental study, a lengthy process.

The wind farm project by Pacific... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission denied a Lompoc resident's attempt to waylay an alternative energy project Wednesday, but approved the first step for a senior housing development in Old Town Orcutt.

The commission unanimously denied an appeal that took issue with temporary meteorological towers that are part of a renewable wind-energy project southwest of Lompoc.

In February, the wind farm was approved by the county Board of Supervisors with a list of conditions, some of which were time sensitive.

However, a lawsuit filed by George and Cheryl Bedford against the county and its approval stalled the project, forcing the developer to request a time extension for four temporary meteorological towers.

The couple, whose property is bordered on three sides by potential sites for the nearly 400-foot-tall wind turbines, also appealed the Planning and Development Department's approval of the time extension.

George Bedford claimed Wednesday that the time-extension approval, which also included reducing the number of permanent meteorological towers from 10 to one, was significant enough to require an additional environmental study, a lengthy process.

The wind farm project by Pacific Renewable Energy Generation LLC, a subsidiary of Acciona Wind Energy USA, proposes to build 65 wind-driven turbines that could generate up to 97.5 megawatts, enough to power more than 40,000 households.

Once operating, it would also provide approximately $1 million annually to Santa Barbara County in tax revenues and give additional funds to the owners of the nearly 3,000 acres of leased agricultural land on which it would be built.

No hearings have been set on the lawsuit yet, according to county staff.

In a separate matter Wednesday, the commission approved the first step in a process that could eventually result in senior housing in Old Town Orcutt.

In an effort to prepare for future funding concerns, the Orcutt Union School District proposed converting approximately 13 acres of its property into a minimum of 262 senior housing units.

"Times have changed, and these dire economic straits require bold and creative actions," said Carol Florence of Oasis Planning, an agent for the school district.

The property bordering Rice Ranch Road and Soares Avenue is zoned for eight units per acre, and to pave the way for the district's development project, an amendment to the Orcutt Community Plan was required first.

To begin the community plan amendment process, the district needed the Planning Commission's approval, which it gave on a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Marell Brooks dissenting.

Brooks said she felt that the wishes of the community would not be honored if the district went through with the proposed amendments.

Several commission members warned the applicant that it will most likely be a long, expensive road for them to travel with no guarantee that the project will meet with approval at the end.

The stated plan is to rezone the basically vacant parcel and then lease the land to a developer, who would build and manage the project.

"This is an initiation process," explained Commissioner Dan Blough. "The applicant is coming forward to get the approval from the commission to process this project, (which will take) several months, or more likely several years."

Several county residents requested that the commission and school district consider a botanical garden instead of the revenue-generating project.

In a previous hearing, the garden concept had not been broached and the majority of the speakers had supported the proposal.

About five speakers explained that the parcel was the only significantly sized open space property in Old Town Orcutt and would be a valuable learning tool as a botanical garden.

The land was initially purchased by the district with the hope of building a new school or auxiliary buildings, but declining enrollment combined with the state's budget issues forced the district to change plans.

The community plan amendment will be thoroughly analyzed by county planning staff and in an environmental impact report. Then it will be back before the Planning Commission, who will pass along a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors for final approval.


Source: http://www.lompocrecord.com...

JUL 16 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/21221-planners-reject-wind-farm-appeal
back to top