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Rezoning request for solar project denied

The Pahrump Regional Planning Commission on Wednesday rejected a request to rezone land to light industrial for a solar photovoltaic project after hearing objections from residents in the neighboring Rogers Estates subdivision.

The 171.96 acres are located at 7251 and 7370 E. Thousandaire Blvd.

The rezoning was accompanied by a requested amendment to a development agreement with PV Land Investments LLC carving off the 170-acre site from a proposed 6,200-home housing development as part of the Gateway Project by the Focus Property Group approved in 2006.

“The applicant has also made a request to amend that development agreement to remove these two parcels from this development agreement, by doing that they would remove about 1,000 dwelling units from that agreement,” Nye County Principal Planner Steve Osborne said.

Nye County Commissioners will consider the application and the RPC recommendation Tuesday.

Dan Scott, manager of the applicant Desert Badger LLC, wrote to commissioners he is in negotiations with a prospective buyer for the parcel who prefers to remain anonymous. He said the surrounding land is zoned a combination of village residential, general commercial, rural estates residential or zoned for a specific plan. Scott said the project will be quiet, require limited maintenance and not generate constant traffic.

In his letter to county commissioners, Scott wrote: “Nye County has identified development of renewable energy as a goal for the community, but so far there are few projects to accomplish that goal. The parcels were zoned as specific plan to accommodate construction under a development agreement that was created over seven years ago, but the land is still undeveloped and will remain undeveloped unless the zoning is changed to permit other uses.”

“We are working with a potential buyer and we’re kind of giving you guys the heads up they are looking to do a solar project. Right now we are looking to get a zone change so we can market the property quickly. There isn’t a conceptual plan yet to develop the solar yet, that will come forward at another time,” Scott told the RPC.

RPC member Bob King said he was concerned it would open the door to other development on the property. But he said a solar project is not as intrusive as other permissive uses in that type of zone.

Lloyd Hohl, a nearby resident at 5761 Keomah St. in the Rogers Estates subdivision, who would overlook the solar project, wrote county commissioners the project would be a great concern. He told the RPC residents of the subdivision were going on record opposing it.

“This could create an adverse effect on our health, environment and financial well-being. It is a fact that certain placement of solar energy farms has caused serious physical health problems in the form of nausea, dizziness and constant severe headaches. Environmental impact to our homes and lives involve solar panel glare, extreme sun reflection and panel light flicker,” Hohl wrote to the county.

The solar plant would interfere with their aesthetic view of the Pahrump Valley from Rogers Estates, he said, which is the first subdivision on Highway 160 sitting on a hill approaching Pahrump.

“When you obtained this land you knew it was under a development agreement to the county?” RPC member Bill Dolan asked Scott. He added, “Have we done any research on the health benefits or problems with having such a large solar farm that close to homes?”

Scott said he doesn’t plan to be the solar developer. “I expect them to come forward to you with a conceptual plan. At that time you will have the opportunity to ask them about all aspects of solar energy,” he said.

Hohl told the RPC residents of Rogers Estates invested in their homes based on the integrity of the master plan and zoning ordinance.

“It devalues the very trust and respect of future development in this community. I think we’re all better served if the future investors view the gateway to Pahrump as a planned community with environmental advantage, fresh air activities with majestic sunsets and beautiful homes.”

Pahrump could have nice subdivisions like Artesia, Mountain Falls, or Rogers Estates, “or view it as an industrial dumping pit for Las Vegas with integrity tossed aside for short-sighted planning driven by greed,” Hohl said.

The Pahrump Town Board voted 3-2 to support amending the development agreement with the stipulation the developer works with neighboring residents on appropriate and aesthetic uses of the land. Dolan and fellow town board member Amy Riches voted against it.

Dolan, sitting in his last meeting as the town board’s representative on the RPC, said he did research on solar projects which can cause hypersensitivity, headaches, restless, electromagnetic sensitivity caused by the inverters.

The solar project is as close as 1,200 feet to homes valued at $250,000 to $750,000, Dolan said, predicting a decrease of 25 percent in home values from a solar plant. Other solar projects are far away from communities like Tonopah, or Boulder City, he said.

“This is a major gateway to Pahrump and I don’t believe it is an appropriate site for a solar project of this size, 170 acres,” Dolan said. “I believe in green energy, I want to see more green energy but I don’t believe this is the right place to put it.”

Nye County Planning Director Darrell Lacy said there’s a 40-acre parcel that would serve as a buffer between the 170-acre solar project and nearby homes. He noted the referenced solar projects were a different technology with solar towers. Lacy pointed out other land near Rogers Estates is zoned general commercial.

Real estate agent Marla Quercia, a Rogers Estates resident, said the economic spin-off would be greater if homes were developed in the area instead of a solar project. “We were just pretty horrified it was even coming up because honestly it’s not going to create a lot of jobs, it will create a few jobs at best,” she said.

Joe Quercia, who said he was in the electrical business 50 years, said the nearby residents would also have to live near infrastructure transmitting the solar power to the grid.

Rogers Estates resident Gary Thomas said, “People come into this town the first thing they’re going to see is this crap if you allow that to be built. We already got enough gravel pits, there’s nothing we can do about that because they’re all grandfathered in.”

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