In the 11th hour, San Luis Obispo County sealed the deal to sell 415 tax-defaulted properties in the California Valley.
On Sept. 13, SunPower subsidiary High Plains Ranch, LLC, delivered a bid of $1.9 million and a $190,000 down payment for a package of 1,052 acres in the isolated area on the eastern border of SLO County.
Supervisor Adam Hill opened a manila envelope containing the bid at the public hearing.
“Wow, we actually have a bid,” he said. “We have a check.”
It was the only bid received, but it was from the anticipated buyer. SunPower is one of two companies set to build a utility-scale solar project in the remote valley. As part of the project approval, the company was required to set aside land for habitat mitigation.
The county’s auction package is a collection of non-contiguous properties, most of which were acquired through tax-default procedures and placed under deed restrictions that removed development rights.
Though the proposal was touted as a win-win, it received some criticism for being questionable as suitable habitat given the space between the properties, and for the way in which the package was tailor made for solar companies rather than split and sold off to existing property owners. Some people have also raised worries that although the county has placed deed restrictions on the individual properties, there’s seemingly no language to prevent someone from drilling for oil and other mineral resources.
County Real Property Manager Caryn Maddalena said the land will be used solely as habitat mitigation for the solar project and additional restrictions will be placed to prevent oil and mineral extraction.
In May, SunPower sold a majority of its shares to French oil giant Total.
The county’s newly attained $1.9 million will be divvied up in the General Services Agency, mostly toward expenses for county buildings.