Planners, residents voice concerns about solar farm

Steve Wragg of Sol Orchard gives a presentation to the group.
Steve Wragg of Sol Orchard gives a presentation to the group.

By Bill Tamburrino

After airing concerns about a solar farm and hearing comments from the public, the Ramona Community Planning Group voted to return the project to the Design Review Board and table additional action until next month.

The proposal is for a major use permit for wholesale distributed generation for a solar project at 1650 Warnock Drive. The site is 110 acres with 46.32 acres proposed to be developed with solar panels that will be 8 feet to 11-1/2 feet off the ground. The production capacity will be 7.5 megawatts of alternating current.

Steve Wragg from Sol Orchard made a presentation using visual aids to explain the physical aspects of the project that included fencing and landscaping. The project is on land designated for agricultural use.

The main concern of several RCPG members was that the “solar farm” was not in character with the community.

Several group members expressed their concerns during the Dec. 1 meeting. Bob Hailey said there is a need to preserve present agricultural land instead of rezoning. Chris Anderson had concerns about the regulations for signs and fences in agricultural areas. Jim Piva had concerns that the project could become an eyesore in the community.

The group then heard public input. All who spoke are against the solar farm. Many live in the proposed area.

Joe Minervini suggested that the solar farm be put “where it can’t be seen. Don’t put it in our faces.” Ken and Pat Brennecke expressed concerns about the use of materials in the project that could potentially contaminate the land and water.

A solar farm is industry, not agriculture, said Pat Brennecke. Donna Myers called the proposal an industrial plant, not a farm.

Piva, planning group chairman, said that Sol Orchard was attempting to be good neighbors in the endeavor and was coming to the RCPG in good faith.

The group approved a motion by Anderson and seconded by Kevin Wallace that Sol Orchard return to the Design Review Board with more specific plans for fencing and landscaping. Further action was tabled until the group’s Jan. 5 meeting.

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Joe Minervini speaks out against the solar farm during the public input session.

Also at the meeting, Bill Saumier, senior park project manager from the County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation, said that the group should come up with a big list of recreation program needs and priorities for 2011-12 in case grant funds are available. Recreation projects also are paid for with Park Land Dedication Ordinance money.

Among several suggestions from group members were: a skate park, basketball gymnasiums, a water park and a community aquatic park.

Piva asked for the community’s suggestions for quality projects. Ideas may be sent by e-mail to RCPG Parks and Recreation Subcommittee Chair Richard Tomlinson at notcivil@cox.net.

In other business at the meeting:

•The Highway 67 Ad Hoc Subcommittee reported that the county and CalTrans do not have the money to conduct a progress report. Dennis Sprong made a motion that the RCPG ask SANDAG to conduct a progress report on the Highland Valley/Dye Road intersection. The motion carried unanimously.

•Group Secretary Kristi Mansolf noted that a proposed wind energy ordinance would allow small turbines to be installed on properties over one and a half acres without a permit.

The planning group meets in the Ramona Library Auerbach Family Community Room, 1275 Main St., at 7 p.m. the first Thursday of each month. The 15-member group is elected by voters living in the Ramona planning area.

   
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