RIDGWAY – A proposed solar farm outside Ridgway suffered a setback Wednesday night as public opposition and an advisory vote of the Ridgway Area Joint Planning Board went against SunEdison’s plan.
Boardmembers voted 4 to 2 (with one abstention) to recommend against approval when the application moves next for consideration by the Ouray Board of County Commissioners. Board chair Ken Lipton emphasized that the planning board’s recommendation is not binding on the BOCC.
Comments from the public, and from a majority of planning board members, exhibited a common theme: we’re in favor of solar power; we just don’t want a solar farm at this location, which is proposed on 20 acres leased from Angel Ridge Ranch at the northeast corner of Hwy. 550 and County Road 10 (Owl Creek Road).
Objections came primarily over the visual impacts of the project, both the view of the solar array from a distance (for example, from the escarpment of Log Hill) and the look of the proposed fence that would screen the project from drivers on both affected roads.
SunEdison representative Bryan Hammond said that a security fence surrounding the project was necessary. But he admitted that the company’s rendering of a fence to screen the project from visual impact was “a work in progress.”
Many in attendance questioned whether the project met the county’s visual impact code requirements. Others thought that the “industrial use” in the Valley Floor zone violated at least the spirit of the county’s Master Plan, which encourages open space and agriculture. Many thought the applicants should look at nearby BLM land as an alternative, and less objectionable, site.
Some participants did speak in favor of the project. Their comments largely addressed solar generating as a necessary and progressive piece of an energy future that Ouray County could be proud of.
In the end, Ridgway commission member Paul Hebert’s motion to approve the application was defeated 4 to 3. And Rodney Fitzhugh’s motion to recommend against (based, he said, on the application’s failure to meet visual impact requirements) passed.
Fitzhugh, Carl Cockle, Ted Collin, and Bob Luttrell voted aye. Hebert and Karen Risch voted nay, with Ellen Hunt abstaining.
The BOCC will take up the issue at a future date yet to be determined.