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Despite Ramona Critics, Sol Orchard Solar Farm Gets County OK

Supervisor Dianne Jacob was the lone member to oppose the solar farm at 1650 Warnock Dr.

The county Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Wednesday to deny appeals and grant a major-use permit for a proposed 42.7-acre solar energy plant at the southern end of Ramona.

Sol Orchard Ramona Solar Energy, slated for 1650 Warnock Dr., would use 8-foot-tall solar panels to produce 7.5 megawatts of power for delivery to San Diego Gas & Electric using an existing distribution line.

"Solar energy can be one of the methods with the least impact to provide clean, renewable and, very importantly, local energy resources," said county Planning Commissioner David Pallinger. "This particular project meets all criteria for a solar farm, including the critical component of proximity to power distribution."

The Planning Commission voted in October to recommend approval of the permit, but Laborers International Union of North America Local 89, the Ramona Community Planning Group and Citizens for a Rural Ramona filed appeals.

Citizens boards in Ramona have voted unanimously to oppose the project, contending it would not fit with the character of the community and would take away prime agricultural land and lead to blight.

Donna Myers, a Ramona Community Planning Group member who also represents Citizens for a Rural Ramona, lives across from the project site and said it was contiguous and would appear as one large object, a roof of 42.7 acres.

"The structure appears monolithic," Myers said. "It is also fabricated out of metal and glass, which are jarringly inconsistent with the organic shapes, colors and patterns of the pastureland."

Local 89, which represents construction workers, argued the project necessitated a full-scale environmental impact report.

The union has a history of intervening in the permit process in solar panel projects around the country, U-T San Diego reported. The union has argued against solar projects because of the few workers per acre the projects require, in addition to environmental concerns, according to the newspaper.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob cast the dissenting vote. She said she supported solar energy projects, but that with larger projects, it was key to find the right location.

The Warnock Drive project would not be consistent with the county's Zoning Ordinance, nor compatible with the surrounding area and would impact neighborhood character, Jacob said.

"How in the world do you screen almost 43 acres of solid solar panels from both public and private properties with landscaping? Give me a break—you just can't do it," Jacob said.

She called for an independent analysis of alternate sites.

The plant would be located at the center of a 110-acre property currently used to raise livestock. The ranching operating would continue in a buffer zone around the solar panels. About a dozen houses are near the property, along with a dairy farm and a paintball facility, the county's Richard Grunow said.

Sol Orchard proposed to lease the 42.7 acres from the landowner for 25 years. The company has already won approval for a solar facility in Valley Center and has similar plans in the East County communities of Alpine and Boulevard.

—City News Service contributed to this report.

Wolf Paulus February 07, 2013 at 06:40 AM
What is the procedure to re-call board members?
Jolinda February 07, 2013 at 04:19 PM
Great question. And also, could we have a list of Ramona Planning members who voted FOR the ill advised Cummings Ranch catastrophy? In our 25 years here these are the two most disgraceful use of the word "progress" !
Joe Minervini February 07, 2013 at 04:46 PM
Jolinda, I agree with your opposition on the Cumming Ranch, any new homes in Ramona should be on a minimum 2 acre parcel. As for our Planning Group, they voted 15-0 against the solar factory ugliness. Yesterday, Piva, Mansolf & Scotty all put on a very good power-point presentation. Unfortunately, none of the Sup's were paying attention except Jacob Wolf, Although Horn doesn't represent our district, we should start with Bill Horn. After being questioned if he has been out to Ramona to see the proposed location of the solar ugliness thing, he said no, he has not visited the site. In fact, he was very annoyed being asked. Furthermore he stated he did not see a need to visit any proposed major building site, he would rely on County Staff to advise him. Problem is, County Staff has an agenda : they recommend approval for anything that would increase the tax base for the county. IS THERE A SOLUTION TO ALL THIS ? There were a few gentlemen in town who once were pushing for incorporation of Ramona. I wish they had succeeded and I wish they will try again. It would take a lot of fund raising to complete the task but I would gladly do my part. If we do not incorporate, the County...people like Bill Horn will continue to infect our Rural Ramona. Joe Minervini, I'm in the phone book. (Melissa, could you forward this comment to other Patch's that are in Bill Horn's district, District 5 mostly all of North County ?)
Diane Chapman February 07, 2013 at 05:36 PM
The Planning Group did an outstanding job as did the members of the Citizens for a Rural Ramona led by the Myers. Not to mention individual citizens who took time out of their day to voice their opinion. Dianne Jacob represented us well and tried to get a 90 day extension, but was voted down. Why the rush? Well, Sol Orchard/SDG&E have to get this going before we figure out that there are no clear cut ordinances for solar panels. There were many disturbing observations during the hearing: No other location was even considered by the planning group. None. All Ramona representation was dead set against the location and it did not matter one bit. Minds had already been made up. Facts were up in the air. Sol Orchard refuted all facts -so which are true? Who is lying? Either it is a 100 year flood plain or it is not. Etc... You would think that out of human curosity, the County Supervisors would at the very least want to know the facts......and take some time to discern. Guess not. Sol Orchard had the audactiy to use "word craft" and kept calling a metal and glass structure a farm. They even compared it to all the other ag areas on a map and considered it just like a pig farm, a K-9 kennel, a grazing operation. Who are you kidding? With that logic, we can call nuclear reactors, nuclear reactor orchards or how about strip mall farms ! Just throw bushes up in front and change the name and we are good to go.
Jackson February 08, 2013 at 07:19 PM
More failure from the ramona community planning group. Why do we Ramonans stand for this? I agree, recall Piva and maybe the County will actually take us seriously.
Lisa Elkins Goodman March 29, 2014 at 08:04 PM
Just wondering.... Has anyone EVER seen pigs at this "Pig Farm?"

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