Second Solar Field Proposed For 29 Palms West Of Its Cemetery

Palm Desert-based E-Group PS is seeking permission from the City of Twentynine Palms to undertake a dual industrial/residential project on 477-acre site proximate to the Twentynine Palms Cemetery.
Represented by Terra Nova Planning, which has taken up the cause of preparing for the project presentation and environmental certification effort for at least one other solar project in the 27,000-population 59.1-square mile city, E-Group is asking Twentynine Palm’s planning and building division to consider its proposal to establish a 50-megawatt solar field featuring 160,000 solar panels on the northern 241 acres of the project site North of Two Mile Road and west of Noel Knolls Road and construct 236 homes on the southern 236 acres of the project site.
According to E-Group PS principal Robert Smith, his company had hoped to work directly with the City of Twentynine Palms in refining the project and tailoring its plans to meet local development standards and mitigate the project in accordance with the needs of local residents and businesses.
With regard to the solar energy-production portion of the project, the company has the option under California law of bypassing local land use authority, in this case the City of Twentynine Palms, and seeking an entitlement to proceed with the project from the State of California, which renders inapplicable any local ban and supersedes any local regulations relating to industrial solar power projects. Twentynine Palms has such an ordinance.
On February 27, Terra Nova on behalf of E-Group PS filed with the State of California under the California Environmental Quality Act a notice that it was preparing a draft environmental impact report to address a multitude of issues including aesthetics, agriculture resources, air quality, biological resources, cultural resources, drainage/absorption, energy, flood plain/flooding, geology/soils, greenhouse gas emissions, hazards & hazardous materials, hydrology/water quality, land use/planning, mineral resources, noise, population/housing, public services and recreation, as well as the impact on local schools/universities, the operation of nearby septic system, local sewer capacity, the generation of trash and solid waste, transportation, utilities/service systems and vegetation.
The project is described as one to take place on 477 acres currently zoned for rural living and single-family residential estates limited to one home per five acres or one home per two-and-a-half acres that will require two general plan amendments and two rezonings, a development code amendment, a conditional use permit and a development agreement to complete. The general plan amendments included amendments to the general plan text and map to add a new renewable energy land use district, and apply it to the northern 241 acres of the project site on the land use map, and a general plan map amendment to re-designate the southern 236 acres of the project site from Rural Living (RL-5) and Single-Family Residential – Estate (RS-E) to Single-Family Residential, with 1 acre minimum lots. In (RS-1). The rezoning creating the new renewable energy district will require a development code amendment to create development standards and permitted uses, and applying it to the northern 241 acres of the project site on the zoning map. The zoning map amendment will re-designate the southern 236 acres of the project site to allow substantially greater density of housing than the land is currently zone for. The conditional use permit is to allow the solar project to be constructed on the northern portion of the site. The development agreement is to address community benefit responsibilities of the applicant.
The window for state agencies, including the California Air Resources Board, the California Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and its Inland Deserts Region 6, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the California Department of Parks and Recreation, the California Department of Transportation, the California Department of Water Resources, the California Energy Commission, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Region 7 of the Colorado River Basin, the Department of Toxic Substances Control and the California Native American Heritage Commission, to carry out their review ends today, March 29. The California Native American Heritage Commission is the lead agency in collecting those comments.
Local residents have voiced opposition to the project as have local residents in the environs of the Indian Cove district of Twentynine Palms expressed resistance to the concept of building another solar project there.

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