Commercial solar energy development was an inescapable subject at the July meeting of the Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Council yesterday. Reporter Dan Stork reports that it came up in discussions of Land Use Services, the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, and a proposed scenic highway designation…
San Bernardino County Planning Commission member Paul Smith, of Twentynine Palms, described to the Morongo Basin MAC the relationship between the Land Use Services Department and the Planning Commission: The Commission is an advisory body to the Board of Supervisors on land use issues, and the Land Use Services department acts as a research staff for the Planning Commission. Smith noted improvements that have been made in public notification during the past year, and urged citizens to register their comments on projects such as commercial solar developments with the Land Use Services Department. Smith defended the behavior of County Land Use Services, and pointed his finger at a Federal agency: “In looking at the big solar projects, you see the Bureau of Land Management rolling over and accepting almost everything that big industry supports.” He emphasized that citizen testimony counts as findings of fact that the Planning Commission can use in supporting its decisions and recommendations on Conditional Use Permits.
MAC member Gayle Swarat noted that the report of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), which may guide the placement of renewable energy projects, is expected to be over 10,000 pages long. She urged the MAC to support doubling the review period for the document to 180 days. The Council did so formally, and established a committee to participate in the analysis of the plan.
Barbara Harris gave a presentation extolling the virtues of designating State Route 247 a Scenic Highway. She noted the apparent unwillingness of Yucca Valley to support the effort. The MAC tabled Harris’ request that it support the scenic designation effort, asking her to return and address how scenic route classification would affect land use policies and solar development.