Neighbors air issues about solar plants in Ramona

Hugh Kuhn, who manages the Sol Orchard solar facility at Ramona Street and Warnock Road, explains to those at the Ramona Community Planning Group how he represents the third owner of the site and wants to be a better neighbor.  Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard
Hugh Kuhn, who manages the Sol Orchard solar facility at Ramona Street and Warnock Road, explains to those at the Ramona Community Planning Group how he represents the third owner of the site and wants to be a better neighbor. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

By Karen Brainard

As the owners of the solar facility at Warnock Road and Ramona Street indicate they want to be a better neighbor, the company proposing a solar plant on Creelman Lane is not gaining any fans.

Vicky Tate, a Creelman Lane resident, said the neighbors' efforts with San Diego Gas & Electric is moving backward. SDG&E wants to build a 4 to 5 megawatt solar energy facility on approximately 17.5 acres of its property at the northwest corner of Creelman Lane and Ashley Road. The utility has a substation at the end of Creelman Lane, a dirt road, and neighbors are asking that the road be paved because the SDG&E trucks create a lot of dust.

In addition, they say the substation has not been well maintained and SDG&E has not been a good neighbor, and they are concerned about the solar plant devaluing their properties.

"We're not seeing them as not good neighbors anymore. We see them as enemies," Tate said at the Ramona Community Planning Group's Aug. 7 meeting.

SDG&E was scheduled to give a presentation on the solar plans at that meeting and respond to public comments regarding landscaping, but pulled out the week before and instead gave a presentation at the Ramona Design Review Board's July 31 meeting. Creelman Lane residents who attended and design review members Scotty Ensign and Jim Cooper, who also sit on the planning group, said they were disappointed with the landscaping proposal.

Resident Jim Tate said SDG&E has offered to pave Creelman Lane from San Vicente Road to the solar plant site,

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Planning group member Jim Cooper advises the operations manager of the Sol Orchard site to bring the landscaping into compliance. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

but not all the way to the substation.

"They've been driving fast on the road," he said, adding that they have not been watering it to mitigate the dust.

On the other hand, the third owners of the Sol Orchard solar generating plant at Warnock Road and Ramona Street appear to be reaching out to mend broken fences with the community. The planning group and neighbors of the site opposed the solar installation, say promises were not kept, and landscaping has not been maintained.

Hugh Kuhn, representing the investor group that now owns the Sol Orchard facility, told planners he had received a call from the county that the planners had issues with the landscaping.

“It’s important that we co-exist well,” he said.

Kuhn agreed they had been negligent and said the landscaping that had been installed at the Ramona solar plant and at another in Valley Center froze in the winter, causing $50,000 in damages. He also said fencing was inadequate.

“What I’m saying is we’re fixing it,” he said.

Planner Donna Myers, who lives across the street from the site, said a walking path was supposed to be added, landscaping was smaller than promised and fencing was improperly installed.

Cooper recommended Kuhn look at the documents to bring it into compliance and be a good neighbor, adding that it still is a sore spot.

Planning group chair Jim Piva told Kuhn that showing up at the meeting was a step in the right direction.

   
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