By Daniel Borsuk
The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors took a big step in igniting the development of renewable energy with the 5-0 adoption of a Solar Energy Ordinance that could help decrease dependence on fossil fuel energy generation and spur the development of Solar Energy Facilities especially in the rural environs of Bethel Island, Byron, Discovery Bay and Jersey Island. BOS 02-25-20 Solar Update – Presentation
Without either hearing comments from the public or asking questions publicly about the ordinance, supervisors also set the stage to insert several fee setting alterations to the county’s Potentially Dangerous Animal and Dangerous Animal Ordinance that will be up for official consideration at a March 10 meeting.
Noticeably absent or unwilling to speak at Tuesday’s meeting were representatives from either the traditional energy or alternative energy sectors or representatives from the environmental and consumer groups.
The Solar Energy Ordinance mirrors ordinances that other agriculturally oriented counties like Butte County, Kern County and San Joaquin County have in place, said Contra Costa County Department of Conservation and Development Director John Kopchik.
The county’s study to join the state’s solar energy crusade was partially supported through a 2018 $49,000 California Strategic Growth Council grant that found solar energy development in Contra Costa County agricultural land could potentially produce as much as 1,530,000 megawatts of energy a year.
While Board Vice Chair Diane Burgis did join colleagues in approving the Solar Energy Ordinance, the supervisor from Brentwood, who is up for reelection in March, remarked “This ordinance scares me. There are huge areas of agricultural land that could be covered with solar panels.”
Conservation and Development Department Planner Joseph Lawlor Jr. told Burgis the ordinance’s restrictions would limit environmental impairments to rural land developed for solar energy purposes.
Promotes Commercial Solar Energy Development
The Solar Energy Ordinance also paves the way for the expansion of commercial solar energy facilities on rooftops and parking lots in unincorporated areas that could yearly produce 280,000 Mgw to 840,000 Mgw of energy.
The new law also could potentially permit the solar energy production of 2,240,000 to 4,100,000 Mgw of annual energy from rooftops, according to the California Strategic Growth Council study.
The Solar Energy Facilities Ordinance requires land use permit approval for new or expanded commercial solar energy facilities, but allows several land use permit exceptions if the proposed “facility is installed on the roof of an existing building or on a parking canopy at an existing parking lot.”
The solar energy ordinance permits a commercial solar energy facility if it is located in a general commercial, light industrial, or heavy industrial district or in a planned unit (P-1) district with an underlying getoneral plan land use designation of commercial or industrial.
The ordinance requires a 25-foot height limit for ground-mounted commercial solar energy facilities. A roof-mounted commercial solar energy facility cannot exceed four feet above the roof surface.
The ordinance also sets requirements for visibility, illumination, septic system avoidance, habitat avoidance and site restoration.
Major Changes in Store for Dangerous Animal Ordinance
Supervisors also set the stage to put more financial bite into an enhanced Dangerous Animals (DA) and Potentially Dangerous Animals (PDA) Ordinance, at the Supervisors’ March 14 meeting.
A public hearing will be conduct and final adoption of the updated Animal Ordinance are slated at the March meeting.
“The goal in the revision of this ordinance was to streamline the process in the betterment of efficiency and consideration of the dog and dog owner,” Jane De May Andreotti, Captain and Deputy Director of Contra Costa County Animal Services Department, told the Contra Costa Herald.
“We want to reduce the amount of time we hold dogs who are investigated as meeting the criteria as PDA/DA,” said Andreotti. “By placing the decision for permitting an animal on the front end of the investigation, and making an appeal process available for animal owners, it actually allows them to get their animals back home sooner, while still requiring the owner’s commitment and compliance on the management of the animal.”
The proposed ordinance inserts a new “Obligations of Animal Owner” section that states: “An owner or possessor of a dog shall at all times prevent the dog from (1) biting or physically harassing a person engaged in a lawful act, and (2) interfering with the lawful use of public or private property.”
The section also states, “An owner or possessor of a dog shall at all times prevent the dog from causing injury to another domestic animal while the domestic animal is lawfully upon public or private property.”
The county also proposes a new fee schedule for PDA and DA permits.
Proposed PDA fees include a $200 application fee, a $300 annual renewal permit fee, a $200 delinquent fee, and a $100 penalty fee.
Proposed fees for Dangerous Animal Ordinance Permits include $100 for application fee, $600 for annual renewal permit fee, $200 for late renewal delinquent fee and $100 penalty fee if the animal permit actually expires prior to paying annual permit fee.
The county proposal includes a $100 revised hearing fee.
If an owner of a licensed DA or PDA licensed animal refuses to yield to permit conditions, the county can issue administrative fines of $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense, $500 for the third offense or “they can be cited for infraction.”