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White Hills developer riled up about wind farm plan

KINGMAN – A major residential developer is finding out what its like to be on the other side of the fence from a major development. Las Vegas developer Leonard Mardian is objecting to the construction of a 500 megawatt wind farm on nearly 47,000 acres of land near his master-planned community, the Ranch at White Hills.

On Wednesday, BP Wind Energy North America plans to request an amendment to the county General Plan and a rezone for the wind farm from the Mohave County Planning and Zoning Commission. The wind farm would be located between White Hills Road and Temple Bar Road, east of U.S. 93.

Mardian sent a letter of objection to the commission on May 29 stating that he is “adamantly opposed” to the project’s location and the fact that it is being treated as a minor amendment to the county’s General Plan. He wants the commission to deny BP’s requests.

He recommends that the county require BP to get a major plan amendment approved for the project (like he had to for his master-planned community), have the area rezoned in phases and create a large buffer between the wind farm and all private property.

Mardian owns Mardian’s Ranch and the Ranch at White Hills, a master-planned community of about 25,000 homes, with a commercial center, light industrial center, golf course and solar field proposed for more than 26,000 acres near BP’s wind farm. According to his letter, Mardian said he has spent more than $25 million on planning, engineering, architecture, design, water studies and wells to get the necessary approvals and zoning permits from the federal, state and local governments to build his development, including a major amendment to the General Plan.

He also plans to install 8,400 acres of renewable energy resources on his property. But his plan to develop renewable energy “does so not at the risk, sacrifice or disregard to every other property owner in the region, as BP Wind has proposed.”

“Processing this as a minor General Plan amendment makes a mockery of the county’s planning mandates and fails to ensure the public is adequately considered,” he writes, “This was never the intention of the ordinances and is not acceptable.”

Major amendments to the General Plan are usually reserved for very large projects such as massive sub-developments or industrial projects that cover thousands of acres of land or have a major impact on natural resources or the community.

Minor amendments to the General Plan can be filed with the county and heard by the commission at any time during the year. Major amendments are only heard by the commission once a year, usually in November.

In February 2011, the Board of Supervisors approved a change to the county ordinances which required alternative energy projects that are larger than 3,800 acres and in a rural development area to apply for a major amendment, although only private land is counted toward the acreage limit.

The changes also allowed the Board of Supervisors to determine if an amendment to the General Plan is a major or minor amendment based on if the project is “beneficial to the county and doesn’t present a substantial alteration of the county’s land use mixture or balance to the land use element for that area of the county.”

The idea behind the changes was to streamline the zoning process and bring in more development.

Since BP’s wind farm is located entirely on land owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Reclamation, it may not be required to get a major amendment.

Mardian also pointed out that the state’s Growing Smarter planning objectives were not addressed in BP’s amendment request.

Growing Smarter is the state’s plan to manage the explosion of residential growth that started during the housing boom in the early 2000s. It forces communities to look at all of their available natural and financial resources before approving development projects they can’t sustain.

The project would impact not only residential property in the area, but cattle grazing and the public’s enjoyment of Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Mardian said. Mardian Ranch has several acres worth of grazing allotments on BLM land in the area.

“The staff at the Mardian Ranch have followed this project for several years and have opposed it, and had, in fact, been in discussions with BP and BLM,” he said.

“It is disturbing to know that BP Wind has shown no regard for the White Hills/Temple Bar area property owners, of which there are hundreds, in addition to us, by locating their proposed wind turbines along existing and planned residential areas,” Mardian said.

BP has also “shown no regard for the general public in locating the turbines directly adjacent to national park boundaries (Lake Mead Recreation Area) and has failed to protect this area of the county in any fashion,” he said.

The commission will also hear a request from several residents of Triangle Airpark, located east of U.S. 93 and north of White Hills Road. The residents are also requesting an amendment to the county’s General Plan and a zoning change from a residential/recreational zone to a general manufacturing zone so they can store airplane parts and equipment and repair their planes.