Neighbors of a proposed commercial wind farm lost another appeal in a bid to stop the project planned for more than a decade for a ridge southwest of Lompoc.
On Tuesday, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors denied an appeal filed by George and Cheryl Bedford and approved several matters surrounding the Strauss Wind Energy Project.
BayWa r.e. Wind LLC has proposed creating a $150 million clean-energy project with 29 wind turbine generators, as tall as 492 feet, on a ridge off San Miguelito Road. The project also would include a transmission line, an operations and maintenance facility, a switchyard and more needed for generating nearly 100 megawatts, or enough to power 43,000 homes.
The Bedfords challenged the Central Board of Architectural Review’s approval of certain aspects of the project. Before Tuesday’s hearing the county Planning Commission denied the Bedfords first appeal of the design review.
“This has been many, many years in the making multiple times and I’m prepared to support the project again,” said board Chairman Gregg Hart, who represents the Second District.
The board voted 4 to 0, with Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam stepping down since one of his brothers serves as attorney for the Bedfords.
The project’s operations and maintenance building would be designed to appear like a barn with colors to help conform to the agricultural setting, according to planner Kathy Pfeifer.
Landscaping would be minimized to blend in with grasslands on the site, she added.
But the Bedfords’ attorney, Richard Adam, challenged CBAR’s approval, noting members admitted they did not review the wind turbines despite the fact they will be tallest structures in the county.
“The purpose of CBAR is to protect surrounding neighbors and the property values,” Adam said, adding CBAR did not make all the required findings.
“So much is wrong here that it’s hard for me to even put it into words,” Adam added.
Staff said the CBAR and Planning Commission’s findings were not improper or an abuse of discretion.
Pfeifer said the two bodies did not make their findings in a vacuum, citing several county policies encouraging wind energy projects.
“These regulations and policies also acknowledge that there are some aspects of wind projects that may have technical constraints that limit a project’s design flexibility to be compatible with the surrounding area,” she said.
Strauss attorney Julie Jones also rejected the appellant’s contention that the county’s General Plan doesn’t need to be considered with county ordinances.
“The General Plan sits at the very top of the hierarchy of the county’s development requirements,” she said, adding if conflict exists the General Plan prevails.
“The California Supreme Court phrased it as the tail does not wag the dog and the General Plan is the constitution for development in the county,” she said.
First District Supervisor Das Wiliams also rejected the appellants’ argument, saying such a strict interpretation also would prohibit oil projects.
“I just think it is a creative argument but it doesn’t follow precedence of energy projects in the past,” Williams said.
In his comments, Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino noted “it’s probably not the last we’re going to hear about this.”
He’s correct. Santa Barbara County has been named as a respondent in two petitions for writ of mandates filed in Santa Barbara County Superior Court seeking to stop the wind farm.
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