Napa County Fwd: Planning Committee decision re the American Canyon Commercial Solar Project by Renewable Properties (the Developer)

Right idea, wrong place?

Napa County:  Planning Committee decision re the American Canyon Commercial Solar Project by Renewable Properties (the Developer)

Dear Neighbors:

Today the Planning Commission delivered a serious setback.  At the Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday, 12/5/2018, they voted to pass the American Canyon Commercial Solar project despite overwhelming evidence that this precedent setting project in the AG Watershed would put the rest of the valley in jeopardy.  This opens the door to Commercial Renewable Energy projects in the AG Watershed.

We believe that we need to appeal this decision.  We have 10 days to file the appeal notify the County Planning Department that we intend to file the appeal and 10 days after that to file the appeal.  We have a core group who are willing to do the work.  Napa Vision 2050 is providing substantial assistance with advice and guidance.

I will describe the situation and how this occurred.  First, however, I need to ask for your help.  We need financial assistance.  To date a small group of 4 have shouldered the financial cost and we have been contributing personally as well.  We have spent hundreds of hours on meetings and research and lobbying.  We are happy to do that.  This is our neighborhood and we need to protect it.

Please email me with your pledges $.  We are asking for your intent to donate at this time since we do not have the requisite account in the name of the group as of yet.  We also want to be sure we get the support we need from local groups before we go this route.

Till then,  we are asking for your commitments.  We can use whatever you can afford…$50—$1,000 and more.  We currently expect expenses to be around $10,000 to $15,000.  The funds would be used only for fees, legal assistance and to print and distribute information to the community.

Please respond with your Pledges by this coming weekend if possible.

Our description of what occurred:

Planning staff and the Developer, used a section of the Napa County General Plan which notes that a “Utility” is an approved use within the AG Watershed.  In other words, power generation is an approved use in AG Watershed zones.  When this was put into zoning and the General Plan in the ‘60s, this referred to PG&E and the narrow corridors they were putting in for their power poles and power lines.  At that time, renewable energy, its footprint and its impact on the land were not in play.   Based on adopting this interpretation, staff advised the Planning Commission that they could approve such a project as the 18 acres of solar in American Canyon…despite it being in the AG Watershed, because it is an approved use…without limits.  In other words, they classified the American Canyon Commercial Solar Project, a private deal between Renewable Properties…the Developer and MCE a non-profit entity, as the equivalent of a public utility like PG&E.

This project covers 85.7% of the parcel. It is 18 acres of commercial solar project on a 21 acre parcel.  No other use in the County is allowed such large coverage of a parcel.  In effect this approval is unique in that it gives the project and the Developer unlimited unregulated and extreme freedom to determine their own coverage.  Napa County does not have rules and regulations for commercial solar projects such as this one.

This means that the next developer can come in and demand the same treatment.  The County opens itself up to liability.

We have been working to convince the County to put regulations in place to guide and govern commercial renewable energy projects BEFORE approving any such project.  The Planning Manager estimated that it would take 6 months to do this.  Despite this relatively short timeline, Commissioners Whitmer, Mazotti and Hansen voted to approve the project without this condition.  Commissioners Gallagher and Cottrell saw the jeopardy and raised the concerns we have been expressing and voted against the project.  They were outnumbered.

In the same meeting on the 5th, further in the agenda, all the commissioners had a discussion and agreed that we need regulations.  They requested that the Board of Supervisors provide direction.  The bottom line is that all see the validity of our concerns, however, the three Commissioners were willing to compromise all standards, the General Plan and the AG Watershed (which we all have fought for decades to preserve) to push this project through.

We need your support to put in a final effort to save our AG land.  Please pledge generously.

We will put in the effort..research…meetings…presentations….feet on the ground.  If any of you can help with some of the effort…let us know.

 Many thanks in anticipation of your support.

My best, Eileen