The Lompoc City Council wants a commercial wind energy farm proposed for southwest of town to pony up $1 million for a community benefit agreement, not the fraction of the amount included in the most recent offer.
Last week, City Attorney Jeff Malawy spelled out recent changes sought by Lompoc and stemming from the council meeting earlier this month in the pact with Strauss Wind, LLC.
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 private property atop 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.
To move forward, Strauss requires various approvals by multiple federal, state, and local government agencies, including encroachment and transportation permits plus an agreement for roadway repair to transport Strauss’s large wind turbines on some city streets to the site.
Strauss most recently proposed a $150,000 payment for the community benefit agreement, much less than the original $1 million offer.
Initially, Strauss included caveats that the city would only get the money if construction began by mid-June and had sold electricity by Dec. 31, 2021, causing the council to balk.
Strauss representative Michael McCormick agreed payment could occur quicker than initially planned, but questioned why the cash-strapped city hesitated to accept the $150,000.
“I don’t understand why I’m negotiating a gift,” he said.
He noted the project has been planned for years, benefitting Lompoc through representatives renting local hotel rooms, a construction firm leasing office space and workers eating at local restaurants.
“If this was just a gift, you could write a check of $150,000 and leave it tonight,” Mayor Jenelle Osborne said. “This is a payment for a legal waiver. That is why it requires an agreement. You are asking for something in exchange.”
“So, yes we’re going to ask for quite a lot and we’re going to go back to the original offer and at least start there because this is a major impact on our community,” Osborne said.
When the Strauss representative said he could not make changes sought by the council, members unanimously voted to delay the item until Strauss returned with a counteroffer.
Lompoc likely will face other costs associated with the wind farm. Councilman Jim Mosby said Lompoc firefighters and police officers may be the first crews to respond to the remote site southwest of Lompoc.
“The county left us out of the negotiation,” Mosby said, noting Santa Barbara County will receive an estimated $40 million boost in property tax revenue from the project.
When Councilmember Gilda Cordova asked about the city request for $1 million, McCormick responded: “Yeah, that’s not going to happen. … We want to give you a gift. We want to give you a fair gift.”
Deliveries of components would occur between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., likely over 90 days and under escort by the California Highway Patrol. Any closures would last minutes, McCormick said.
Strauss has planned to transport its large wind turbines to the project site through Lompoc from the northern city limit at Santa Lucia Canyon Road, continuing south onto Floradale Road, east on Ocean Avenue, south on I Street and to the southern city limit at Willow Avenue. The end of the route involves a county road.
Transportation of the equipment will involve approximately 161 to 203 “extremely oversized truck trips,” and will require removal of traffic signal poles, trees, street lights, signs, and other items from the city right-of-way, Caltrans right-of-way, and the city-owned property.
Project neighbor George Bedford, who has strongly opposed the wind farm, said he worries about the project’s impact on Lompoc as the heavy loads travel through town to the site.
“We’re talking about a lot degradation but we’re also talking about a lot of traffic that’s going to upset the apple cart on that side of town,” Bedford said, suggesting the city should seek $2 million plus costs for any road repairs.
“We just don’t know how much damage is going to be done and neither do they,” Bedford added.
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