The question of whether the county will expand its wind energy policies to make certain projects easier to complete remains unanswered, as the Board of Supervisors’ plans this week were stalled.
A document from attorney Stephan Volker – representing opponents of wind energy expansion in East County areas – arrived in the hands of county counsel, and then the county supervisors, just hours before amendments to the county’s wind ordinance were to be considered.
The amendments proposed could give the green light to wind energy projects in the Boulevard and Borrego Springs areas.
But at the advice of Deputy County Counsel Claudia Anzures, the Board of Supervisors put off the matter until the documents could be reviewed to determine if they contain new information not previously addressed by county staff.
She cited the California Environmental Quality Act, saying that the law requires all items presented before and during public hearings must be taken into consideration, even if presented with little notice.
“So if we were to ignore that information and not respond to it, we would be at a disadvantage if we were challenged later,” Anzures said.
It was unclear whether the documents contained any new information.
Anzures said a scan of the material was performed before the supervisors met, but there had not been enough time to thoroughly review them or prepare a response.
Before the decision was made to continue the public hearing to next week, 26 people who had submitted requests to speak were given their time before the supervisors – nine in favor of the amendments and 17 opposed.
Anzures said if new information is found in the documents, additional public testimony would be required, and it could be heard in the same hearing as the county counsel and staff responds to the information.
A county wind energy ordinance has been in development since 2009, when the Board of Supervisors directed staff to develop a new regulatory framework for wind turbines that would simplify processing and bring regulations in line with current wind turbine technologies.
The regulation established defined wind turbine systems that generate 50 kilowatts or less as small projects, and systems with a cumulative capacity of more than 50 kilowatts as large ones.
What the supervisors are now considering could amend the county’s General Plan to modify the Boulevard Community Plan to increase opportunities for large wind turbine projects through the major use permit process, and modify the Borrego Springs Community Plan to allow opportunities for small wind turbine development there.
If adopted, the amendment to the Borrego Springs Community Plan would allow for small turbine projects there to be approved though simple ministerial permitting.
After hearing from the public, Supervisor Dianne Jacob expressed concern about moving forward with any action while the document presented late by Volker remained unread in full.
Supervisors Bill Horn and Ron Roberts expressed distaste for the ability of a document submitted so late to delay a hearing, but nevertheless agreed to continue the hearing.
“If it weren’t for state law, I’d simply say throw it out,” Roberts said of the document.
The item was continued to the supervisors’ meeting, scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Cox said it will be the first item heard that day after the formation of the board’s consent calendar.
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