Two Alameda County supervisors on Monday appeared closer to recommending a moratorium on new solar farm projects until the county approves policies for how they should be built and where.
During the second straight Transportation and Planning (T & P) committee meeting to update progress on the development of those policies, Supervisors Nate Miley and David Haubert — who serve on the committee — questioned whether they should entertain any applications for projects at the same time the county was writing the rules.
Several callers to the meeting suggested the public needed more input on the process, especially following the board’s March approval of the controversial 350-acre Aramis solar farm project near Livermore.
“It seems to me that a case could be made for a moratorium,” Miley said, asking staff members to report back next month on whether they could meet the legal requirements for a moratorium. “I think this is something the board is going to have to decide.”
If Miley and Haubert believe a moratorium is necessary, they would take their proposal to the full board. Four of five supervisors would have to vote yes.
During the committee meeting, Alameda County Planning Director Albert Lopez provided an update on the solar policy progress. He said he had scheduled about three meetings with public groups and planned for a public workshop to go over the ideas that an Agriculture Advisory Committee subcommittee submitted to the Board of Supervisors months ago.
The supervisors have not addressed any specific policy point by point at their meetings.
Haubert and Miley said the few public meetings scheduled by staff and a single workshop would not be sufficient in the process.
Although Haubert said he supported discussing a moratorium, he questioned whether it was necessary, since it would take much longer to approve a project than to come up with the policies.
In other T & P committee discussions, the supervisors heard progress in developing a potential Nov. 1, 2022 ballot measure. Voters would decide whether to allow for equestrian arenas to be as large as 60,000-square-feet on agricultural land. The measure would increase the formula for deciding the size of the arena based on the land’s acreage.
County staff members have been presenting the proposed measure to the public at advisory councils, as well as developing a new definition for what constitutes an “agricultural building.” An updated proposed measure for board approval adds olives, nuts, hops and wine to hay, grain, poultry, livestock and farm implements for what could be housed and processed in an agricultural building. An agricultural building could not be used for large industrial-type operations, including slaughterhouses and canneries.
The county has rules on how large agricultural and residential buildings can be on rural properties.