The Riverside County Planning Commission largely ignored arguments from Desert Hot Springs officials Wednesday who asked that the county stop a 45-turbine windmill project just south of the city.
“I have a difficult time dealing with the opposition of the city of Desert Hot Springs when they have (planned for windmills in that area in) a general plan,” planning commissioner John Porras said. “It’s inconsistent.”
The City Council had passed a resolution and written a letter to the county in opposition to the project. The city, which hopes to annex the land, believes that if windmills are built there, the land will be useless for future development and property taxes.
“As far as economic development goes, there is none now and very little in the future should we annex this land,” Councilman Hank Hohenstein told the Planning Commission.
The city’s general plan was drawn up before most of the current council was elected.
Although all of the members of the commission said they were leaning toward approving the 45-megawatt wind-turbine project, they all agreed to postpone a decision until May 16 because of a last-minute letter the commission received from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The letter stated there were several issues that the developer, PPM Energies of Portland, Ore., needed to address, such as a fence that must be built around the construction zone. However, the commissioners and the developer questioned whether the letter was referring to the correct project, as the letter mentions hills in the area where there are none.
The commission will reconvene in May to discuss only certain aspects of the project, including the Fish and Wildlife Service letter.
Andy Linehan, who heads the project for PPM, had mixed emotions following the meeting.
“We’re disappointed. I think we got a positive reception but hoped that it would be decided tonight and not delayed for another month essentially,” Linehan said after the meeting. “We have a few odds and ends, but I think that’s it.”
The May 16 meeting will be held at 1:30 p.m. at the Coachella Valley Water District building in Coachella.
The project’s 45 wind turbines will be about 330 feet tall and supply enough electricity to power 300 homes a year.
By Bill Byron
The Desert Sun
19 April 2007
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