Here’s what you need to know
- The board approved a 35-year solar project reclamation agreement, part of a multiphase solar-electricity-generating storage facility on approximately 2,000 acres.
- Though the matter was not on the agenda, the supervisors discussed the possibility of keeping the Rio Bravo biomass facility open beyond October 1, when it is scheduled to close. Chair Pacheco asked CAO Nerland to look into the matter and draft a letter requesting that the plant stay open.
- The board approved an appeal for a variance application to allow for a residence to be built on land zoned for agriculture. The planning commission denied the application earlier this year.
Brian Pacheco, 1st District, Chairman
Sal Quintero, 3rd District, Vice-Chairman
Steve Brandau, 2nd District
Buddy Mendes, 4th District
Nathan Magsig, 5th District
Paul Nerland, County Administrative Officer (CAO)
Daniel C. Cederborg, County Counsel
Bernice E. Seidel, Clerk of the Board of Supervisors
Chairman Pacheco opened the meeting at 9:31 a.m., after which Clerk Seidel called the roll. All were present. Supervisor Quintero said that the person who was to give the morning’s invocation was having parking problems, so instead he introduced a county employee, Rocky Bang, who was available on short notice to give the invocation: “Gracious father, we ask for your guidance,” he said with head bowed. “May everything we do be pleasing to you,” he continued, concluding, “We ask all this in Jesus’ holy name.” Sanja Bugay, Department of Social Services director, was asked to lead the flag salute. The meeting was relatively short at only 40 minutes total. Access to the public was in-person or via livestream; video and agenda are available here.
Agenda Item #1 The agenda was approved 5-0 after Clerk Seidel noted that item #4, an appeal for a building variance, would be deleted after the applicant withdrew the appeal. Item #14 would be continued to the September 6 meeting.
Agenda Item #2 The consent agenda (items #16-43) was approved 5-0 after it was noted that item #17, adjournment in memory of police officer Steven Hunt, would be continued to a date uncertain; Supervisor Magsig asked to pull item #40, a solar project reclamation plan, for discussion.
Agenda Item #3 Retirement of Jeffrey Quarles, a 20-year employee of the Department of Social Services. Deputy Director of Social Services Linda Duchene praised Quarles, as did Veronica Mota, Social Services Program Manager. She said that Quarles was “always willing to help,” and initiated some changes in department business processes. Quintero said, “You look pretty young, what are you going to do now?” Quarles said that his goal was to “help the kids” and that he was interested in the school district. Pacheco remarked that it “seems you’ll go from busy to busier now.” Everyone posed for a group photo.
Agenda Item #4 Deleted as noted.
Agenda Item #40 This item was approved 5-0 having been pulled for discussion from the consent agenda by Magsig. It concerned a contract for solar-panel reclamation for a solar-electricity-generating storage facility on approximately 2,000 acres, part of the first phase of a multiphase solar-energy project.
- Magsig said that he was “overall supportive” but that he had questions: was there a line-item in the contract for hauling and recycling costs?
- Development Services Manager Will Kettler answered yes.
- Was there a line item for recycling batteries and panels? The reply was that county regulations were being followed.
- Magsig was concerned about the costs of recycling photovoltaic panels.
- A representative of the company with which the county has contracted for the work was present to reassure the board about these concerns.
- Magsig said that the applicant had purchased the property where the storage facility was located and that he was “one who believes in private property rights” but that he wanted to see future reclamation projects include line items for future recycling costs.
Agenda Item #5 The board approved an appeal for a proposal to allow the creation of a 3.3-acre parcel from an existing 18.95-acre parcel within a district zoned exclusively for agriculture; the planning commission had denied the request earlier this year.
- Will Kettler said that the denial was based on the failure of the applicant to meet required conditions (four specific “findings”) for acceptance. Kettler said that the Planning Commission recommended denial of the appeal.
- Supervisor Mendes, whose district the property is in, asked if the applicant was present.
- Bill Sikes, who represents the property owners, was present to make the case for the appeal. He began by saying that standing at the counter in the planning department’s offices gave him “flashbacks” to the 1960s when he was a victim of an attempted carjacking, and he “took a round in my head” and “a slug in my chest.”
- His first thought was “Why?” He had been told that “we don’t do this like Los Angeles and the Bay Area.”
- He raised his voice and described how he had been “relieved” initially that “you people” do things in a reasonable manner, but that now he observes “the creep” of the Los Angeles and San Francisco way of doing things.
- He felt his clients (the property owners) had been misled as they had paid fees only to be denied.
- The public-comment timer buzzed after five minutes, so he hesitated to continue, but Mendes was heard to say, “You paid to speak, so keep talking.”
- The property owners, a retired medical doctor and a retired veterinarian, simply wanted to continue living there on three acres and sell the rest of the property, said Sikes.
- He said what they’ve been put through by the county was “unconscionable,” he said.
- Pacheco countered that Sikes would not have had the opportunity to appear before the board if his clients had not paid; they were paying for the appeal, not for a guaranteed outcome.
- The required four criteria still must be met before the board could approve; that had not been done to the satisfaction of the planning department, hence the denial and now the appeal.
- Pacheco wanted to hear Sikes’ argument for his clients’ meeting the four criteria. “That’s the system,” said Pacheco.
- Mendes asked if Sikes was an engineer. “They should have had a politician up here!” Mendes added.
- Part of Sikes’ response was unintelligible, but he said something about “spreading BS” which made Mendes laugh. Sikes said he wanted “reasonability” [sic].
- As Kettler read each of the four criteria, Mendes summarily agreed that they were sufficient.
- Mendes appeared to be speaking with his mic switched off, so he was barely audible.
- When all four requirements were met according to Mendes, the board voted 5-0 to approve the appeal.
- Pacheco said to Sikes, “See, sir, sometimes reasonableness plays out.” Mendes said something about “farmers” being on the board and having a special understanding of the situation.
Agenda Item #6 By a 5-0 vote, the board approved amendments to the Zoning Ordinance to bring it in compliance with updated state law.
- Kettler presented the item, approval of which was a formality.
- Mendes said it will be “great until the state moves the bar again.”
- Pacheco asked attorney Cederborg if he was pleased, to which he replied that “we are completely satisfied.”
Agenda Item #7 Supervisors’ Committee Reports and Comments
Magsig spoke first. He said he wanted to comment “in regards to” [sic] the Rio Bravo biomass-fired electrical generating facility, despite its location in Mendes’ district.
- He mentioned that if the facility is “shuttered” there will be no other such biomass facility to collect cut trees, farm waste, and the like.
- He said that diversion of such waste from landfills, despite being required by law, would not be possible if the plant closes.
- “Haulers tell me” that they must take the organic waste to a landfill, Magsig said, adding that the facility is set to close as of October 1 unless there is a new contract.
- He apologized to Mendes for raising the issue, as the plant is in Mendes’ district, but Mendes said, “You’re a good spokesman.”
- Then Mendes said, smiling and looking from side to side to check reaction from his colleagues, that it has a lot to do with “where the state has positioned its head.” No one responded.
- Pacheco asked CAO Nerland to look into the matter and draft a letter requesting that the plant stay open.
- Mendes then commented that “the state” doesn’t want organic matter in landfills yet they won’t “take care of” it. He then repeated the remark about “where their head is positioned” but, again, no one else laughed.
Quintero said that he attended a ribbon-cutting for the Workforce Development Board, which has opened a new 33,000 square-foot location in Fresno. Job training for building trades and other areas will be provided there, said Quintero.
Brandau, Mendes, Pacheco: No comments.
Agenda Item #9 Public comments regarding items not on the agenda.
- There was only one commenter, who identified himself as Bob Winslow, a retired 32-year employee of Madera County.
- He began by saying that nearby he had attended the wedding of an attorney friend who works for the public defender and that he was subsequently looking for the “public administration” building.
- He said he spoke to two women who were so helpful, and at this point, he choked up and sobbed, apologizing for being “emotional,” but continuing to talk about how nice and helpful the women were.
- “It was fantastic!” he said, asking everybody to applaud. There were very few people in the room.
- Pacheco said pointedly, “We appreciate your comments,” and remarked that there are typically far more complaints than compliments.
Before going into closed session, which entailed six items regarding labor negotiations and litigation, Cederborg noted that there would be no announcements from this portion of the meeting. Adjournment was at 10:10 a.m.
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