A grassroots movement to stop construction of 45 30-story windmills is gaining steam among Desert Hot Springs residents.
About 50 people – nearly all of whom opposed building more wind turbines – gathered Thursday at Carl May Community Center to devise ways to stop the behemoths from being built in their back yards.
“If those go through, we’re going to pay three times: with increased electric bills, decreased property values and a loss of economic income into this city,” City Councilman Hank Hohenstein told the crowd.
The meeting was called by a consortium of concerned residents and business owners who asked the city for use of the center. Hohenstein, Councilwoman Yvonne Parks, City Manager Ann Marie Gallant and Community Development Director Steve Mendoza also were in attendance.
Although the city has yet to take an official stance, there will be a resolution on the next City Council agenda that will likely see the council officially oppose the construction.
The city, however, has no official power to stop the windmills because the proposed site is in Riverside County, about a mile west of city limits, near Pierson Boulevard.
Joyce Manly, who moderated Thursday’s meeting, suggested residents engage in a letter-writing campaign to the county Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. But she noted that it will be an uphill battle.
“Supervisor Marion Ashley (who represents Desert Hot Springs) pretty much approves all windmill projects,” she said.
The project is being proposed by Pacific Power Management and Dillon Wind, both of Portland, Ore. They must first gain planning commission approval for several variances, including a change of zoning from controlled-development use to wind-energy use, according Pacific Power Management spokeswoman Jan Johnson.
To succeed in that task, representatives must first appear before the county Planning Commission and then before the Board of Supervisors, which will have the ultimate vote in the matter.
Most of the residents’ concerns centered on destruction of the mountain vistas and a decrease in property values they believe will occur if the turbines are built, they said.
“The only thing that can’t be mitigated in the proposal is the aesthetics,” Manly said. “The only way to mitigate the aesthetics is not to build them.”
Other residents brought up concerns about a lack of upkeep on the turbines once they become obsolete. It was also noted that the 327-foot-tall turbines kill migrating birds with their 100-foot-long spinning blades.
“Yes, there will be some bird kills, but it’s very low – insignificant,” said project planner Mike Shoberg, who was in attendance.
A meeting is planned Wednesday, with time and place to be decided.
By Bill Byron
The Desert Sun
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