San Luis solar project comes before county
A proposal for a solar power plant on the east side of San Luis comes before the Yuma County Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday after the city council recently reaffirmed its support for the project.
Solar Electric Solutions of Woodland Hills, Calif., is seeking a special use permit from the county to locate solar panels on 175 acres of state property south of Juan Sanchez Boulevard and next to Avenue F in an unincorporated area within the city's limits.
While the city of San Luis has no authority over the project on a “county island,” Yuma County has declined to approve it without a letter from the city council endorsing the project.
On Wednesday, for the second time in a month, the council voted 4-2 to issue a letter of support for the project. The vote to endorse the plant had to be redone because the council in its August vote had improperly imposed conditions of the California company in return for the city's backing.
Solar Electric's permit request comes before the planning and zoning commission at its meeting that begins at 5 p.m. in the county's Aldrich Auditorium, 2351 W. 26th St. The meeting is open to the public.
The commission has the option of recommending approval or denial of the permit request to the board of supervisors, which makes the final decision.
As in the August vote, the issue divided the council Wednesday, with most members backing a project they see as bringing at least short-term employment to the Arizona border city.
Freeman Hall, the company's president, has said the project would create up to 150 jobs during the nearly one-year period of construction and then up to five permanent jobs for workers who would maintain the panels.
Council members Joe Harper, Africa Luna, Matias Rosales and Gloria Torres backed the project, while Mayor Gerardo Sanchez and Councilman Marco Pinzon voted against issuing a letter of support. Councilwoman Maria Ramos abstained from voting.
“We have to begin setting goals for bringing jobs to our people,” said Harper, “even if they are jobs lasting two or three years. Unemployment in San Luis is 70 percent. One of the priorities for us has to be bringing jobs to the community.”
Sanchez, however, stated his concerns that the project would offer no long-term employment benefits for the city and could pose a land-use conflict with future residential developments planned for the area.
The site of the proposed solar plant is near the Baja Substation owned by Arizona Public Service, to which the California company proposes to sell electricity generated by the panels.
In its August vote to back the plant, the council imposed several conditions on Solar Electric Solutions: that it be required to put up $1 million for a public park, a sewer lift station and other infrastructure in the area of the plant, and that it establish a fund of another $1 million to restore the land to its original state once the plant reaches the end of its projected 30-year lifespan.
However, said Harper, the council later learned it could not legally impose those requirements since the site does not fall within the city's jurisdiction.
Wednesday's second vote included a recommendation to the county that it impose those conditions on Solar Electric Solutions in return for granting a permit.