A program designed to fast-track the approval of small-scale solar projects in the county has passed the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission and is headed for the Board of Supervisors.
The Renewable Energy Streamlining Program (RESP) creates a set of requirements that, if met, would allow a renewable energy project to be exempt from seeking a land use permit. It can also exempt it from discretionary review, which includes a public component that may require a vote of approval, often leading to a rigorous and lengthy process. The program would instead send applicable projects through a more cut-and-dried ministerial review process.
Originally, the program’s standards aimed to streamline approval for a distributed generation solar energy project of 160 acres or smaller. The planning commission changed that limit to 40 acres, however, and stipulated that projects larger than 20 acres couldn’t sit on important agricultural soils, said James Caruso, a senior planner for the county.
As proposed, the program would also bar projects from being streamlined on land identified as having important biological resources. The process of defining whether or not a project site is sensitive habitat has drawn some concern from environmentalists, who say that the ministerial process offers little chance for public oversight or third-party review of findings.
The supervisors will hear the issue on March 10
-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay