By Marissa Mitchell
Walnut – A recent judge’s ruling has given Mt. San Antonio College the go-ahead to construct its long-awaited solar project, previously contested by the City of Walnut and neighboring residents.
On March 14, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant found that because the project is a solar generation facility, it is exempt from city land use, zoning, and building controls. This ruling halts the city’s stop-work order on the college. Moreover, he rejected the city’s request to take lead agency status. Mt. Sac thus maintains responsibility for conducting the project under the CEQA: California Environmental Quality Act.
“We are pleased the judge supported Mt. SAC’s position on this matter,” stated the President of Mt. SAC Bill Scroggins. “We are looking forward to working cooperatively with the City of Walnut and neighbors.”
The project will be located on Mt. Sac premises known as the “West Parcel,” a triangular piece of land South of Temple Avenue.
Even though the judge ruled that Mt. SAC is not required to apply to the City of Walnut for a conditional use permit or building permit, it must submit grading and truck hauling plans for the solar project. City engineers must then review and process the grading plans for approval. However, the authority of the city’s review is limited by state code to onsite review only – meaning the design and grading issues can only be judged and assessed inasmuch as they affect the site itself.
“The college has had a long history of working with the city on construction issues such as grading and truck hauling,” Scroggins declared. “We will monitor the city’s progress on the review of our grading and hauling plans and collaborate with city staff to expedite the process.”
Because the system will generate 2.2 megawatts of electricity for the campus, it will save taxpayers at least $480,000 a year, as well as approximately $15 million over the 25-year life cycle of the system. This project will move the college closer to energy independence and improve the quality and reliability of campus electrical service.
Funding for the project has included voter-approved Proposition 39 Clean Energy Funds, California Solar Incentive Funds, and California Energy Commission loans.