The firm seeking to truck wind tower generator components through Lompoc city streets has upped its financial offer, but local leaders say it’s not enough, and they want Santa Barbara County to pledge a portion of property tax proceeds.
Strauss Wind LLC has approval from Santa Barbara County to build a wind farm on a privately owned ridge southwest of Lompoc.
BayWa r.e. Wind LLC has planned to install 29 wind turbine generators, as tall as 492 feet, off San Miguelito Road to generate nearly 100 megawatts, or enough to power 43,000 homes.
The firm needs encroachment and oversized-vehicle permits from the City of Lompoc to transport large equipment on the local streets .
Strauss would reimburse the city for any effects to streets, sidewalks, landscaping and other infrastructure along with staff costs related to processing permits.
“Anything over and above all those impacts is going to be deemed mitigated by the $250,000 payment under this community benefit agreement,” City Attorney Jeff Malawy said.
City Council members differed on whether the permits were linked to negotiations on the community benefit agreement, with some viewing efforts as parallel while others contending that issuing permits without a pact would remove leverage to ensure the payment occurs.
In mid-June, negotiations stalled after Lompoc council members sought more than the previous offer of $150,000 from the firm, and on Tuesday balked again at $250,000 over three payments – what Mayor Jenelle Osborne called “not even a drop in the bucket” for a cash-strapped city needing new emergency radios, police body cameras, new fire engines and park improvements.
Osborne said the city won’t see any long-term benefits from the project, which expects to have six permanent jobs once it’s operational.
“This is a long-term burden that we see zero benefits from, and that’s what I’m looking at on this is that long-term burden,” Osborne said.
A $250,000 total payment would break down to about $8,000 annually for a project expected to operate for 30 years.
Strauss representatives say the project has involved thousands of dollars spent locally to rent hotel rooms, buy gas, purchase meals, acquire fencing and support other businesses in the city.
“There’s been a lot of financial impact to the city of Lompoc. A lot of money has been spent, and a lot of money has been distributed in the community,” Strauss representative Michael McCormick said.
He also maintained that the impact would last three months while blades were transported to the site. Construction most likely would take six months.
Wind turbine generator blades remain at the Port of Stockton awaiting the final permits for the last leg of the trip to the site south of Lompoc, a Strauss representative said.
City Manager Jim Throop said he checked with a colleague familiar with wind farm operations and found out blades sometimes have to be replaced.
“I do think there’s an ongoing cost,” Throop said, adding that he did not consider $250,000 the right number. “I think there’s something that should be done on a yearly basis, but we weren’t able to get to that level of negotiation or discussions.”
City leaders have pointed out that Lompoc police officers and firefighters most likely would respond first to incidents in Miguelito Canyon because of proximity since the nearest county stations sit north of the city.
“My only issue right here is with the public safety aspect of it,” Councilman Victor Vega said. “Regardless, if it’s a short-term response, it’s still time spent. I think there’s value to that, and we should put value on there.”
“We don’t want to tell you how to spend your money. It’s your money,” McCormick said. “We’re offering $250,000, which is a substantial amount of money to do whatever you guys want to do with that money. It’s not an insignificant amount of money.”
He noted the firm would pay all of the costs and spent 18 weeks to reach the agreement presented Tuesday.
“I feel the agreement is more than fair,” McCormick said.
Councilman Jim Mosby said that a key player – Santa Barbara County – wasn’t part of the discussion Tuesday, and if the city signed the agreement it would not have any leverage against the county.
“You’re kind of stuck in the middle and that sucks, I understand,” Mosby told the Strauss representative.
Mosby noted that environmental documents say the project would require thousands of truck trips through the city for various aspects of construction occurring in Lompoc’s backyard.
The council voted 5-0 to have staff talk to Santa Barbara County representatives about providing some of the property tax revenue generated from the project – estimated at $40 million over 30 years.
“This could be a beautiful time for them to kiss and make up with us,” Mosby said of the county.
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