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County considers regulation of renewable energy projects  

Credit:  Written by David Marquez | Silver City Daily Press | April 13, 2022 | www.scdailypress.com ~~

During their work session Tuesday, the Grant County Commission discussed the possibility of a future ordinance for renewable energy facilities which are slowly working their way into the area. Planning and Community Development Director Priscilla Shoup said developers are calling her weekly, inquiring about constructing solar or wind energy facilities in the county.
“We are getting quite a few developers who want to do this in the county, and by a few, I mean we’re getting a number of calls a week,” Shoup said. “Those are the requests that we’re getting. It’s kind of a mix of a residential and commercial development – it’s bigger than a few solar panels in somebody’s yard, but smaller than a solar farm.”
As far as enforceable policies for incoming solar and wind farm facilities, “the only thing that we have is a floodplain permit,” said County Manager Tim Zamora, “so I think it would be a good thing to start looking at an ordinance for these solar energy facilities [and] developers that want to construct these in the county.”
“Right now, we don’t really have a say-so because we don’t have an ordinance in place, so all we can do is issue a floodplain permit and make sure they’re not building a structure in a floodway,” Shoup added.
In order to temporarily remedy this, Zamora and Shoup presented a plan that would require future developers to consult with county officials before beginning construction of a renewable energy facility.
“Without limiting where a company can place their [farm], without limiting any kind of zoning-type issues,” Zamora said, “I want to make sure that the staff reviews the plans that the company has, and within our ability, provide recommendations before we actually sign off on their floodplain permit.”
Zamora said that this meeting would include road department and planning department staff, code enforcement staff and himself, among others. This would allow the county to have some input.
“I want them to have to coordinate with our staff and take any feedback or guidance before the commission approves a development,” he said, “or before we approve a permit.”
This process would prelude a later, more extensive ordinance and policy that would be developed for renewable energy facilities in Grant County.
District 5 Commissioner Harry Browne brought up the issue of timing, and said that even if the county begins developing a policy now, some facilities will not be subject to it.
“The [New Mexico Public Regulation Commission] approved the regulations for community solar programs at the very end of March. They haven’t published them yet, because they’re giving parties 30 to 60 days to protest,” he said, “but they plan to publish them by late May. Once they get published, these projects can go ahead, so we might be in a similar situation that we were in with the cannabis ordinance.”
If the county does not have an ordinance in place by May, “some projects will be in effect but will not be subject to the ordinance” although future ones will, Browne clarified. “I’d rather not have that kind of unequal treatment.”
“That may be the case, because there are two that have already submitted floodplain permits,” Shoup said. “One is in Arenas Valley, and one is off Country Road in the Rosedale area.”
These projects are both being planned by one entity, she said. The Arenas Valley project will be a 14-acre solar farm built south of U.S. 180, and Shoup said the county has established a working relationship with the developer.
“He told us he would give us all the final planning, and make sure that he’s following all the drainage” regulations, she said, “but I can’t say it’s going to happen with any other developer.”
District 4 Commissioner Billy Billings said that too much regulation from the county could drive away companies looking to develop in the area.
“I’m having that argument with myself right now,” he said. “You start regulating stuff, and pretty soon all of these solar producers that are thinking about coming here – or wind producers – are going to say, ‘Well, I’ll just go to X county.’ We don’t want that.”
“On the other hand, we don’t want a thousand 500-foot towers,” said District 3 Commissioner Alicia Edwards.
“I can say that a lot of the developers that I talked to on the phone, that is the exact reason they want to come to Grant County, is because we don’t have zoning,” Shoup said. “That’s why we’re getting so many inquiries on this.”
After some guidance from the board, Zamora said that in May, his staff will bring a resolution to the board to outline a process through which developers would be required to meet with county staff. He will also draft a notice of intent for a future ordinance, which will allow the board to discuss a new law in June.
“The policy could take longer,” Browne said, “but I’d rather get something on the books now.”
“We need to have this whole thing as part of the conversation in reopening the comprehensive plan for the county, as well,” Edwards said.
Commissioners also discussed a new ordinance for abatement of “dangerous or abandoned buildings, structures, mobile or manufactured housing, wreckage and debris,” a revised version of an ordinance that was meant to be passed in 2020 but was delayed by COVID-19.
“We had actually produced an ordinance, put it out for the public and scheduled the required public hearing,” said Administrative Assistant Kevin Hubbs. “It was the public hearing that then got canceled, because of COVID.”
The ordinance has been reworked, and was presented to commissioners during the meeting Tuesday. Multiple commission members requested more time to review the ordinance before presenting it to the public for comment.
“We’re going to put a notice of intent in May, so that we would actually review it or consider it in June,” Zamora said.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Ty Bays of Freeport-McMoRan presented a proposed reroute of the Tyrone Thompson Road that extends from N.M. 90 toward the Burro Mountain Homestead. The reroute would allow for mining in the area without disruption of public travel.
The road project, if approved by the board and the public, would begin in two to three months, according to Bays.
Commissioners also received updates from departments about ongoing issues and projects before reviewing their agenda for Thursday’s regular meeting, which will begin at 9 a.m.

Source:  Written by David Marquez | Silver City Daily Press | April 13, 2022 | www.scdailypress.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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