One month after a 410-acre solar power plant north of Livermore was initially approved, Alameda County officials have postponed an appeal hearing for the project until early February.
Proponents and opponents of the Aramis solar project both recently requested to delay the originally scheduled Jan. 12 hearing before the county Board of Supervisors, according to Shawn Wilson, chief of staff for outgoing Supervisor Scott Haggerty, whose District 1 includes the project area.
The postponement "makes more prudent sense," Wilson said, noting that Haggerty's successor, former Dublin mayor and now Supervisor-elect David Haubert, will have more time to become familiarized with plans after being sworn in Jan. 4.
"The neighbors in particular that live in close proximity and also some of the Livermore organizations said 'let's take some time and meet with the new supervisor and let's talk to him,'" Wilson told the Weekly.
Instead, the Board of Supervisors will consider the proposal at their next meeting in February, Wilson said.
With only a week between Haubert's induction and the original hearing date, Wilson said there would have been little time for the new supervisor to meet with the applicants, neighbors and other community members.
"It's not something that deserves to be rushed. We're talking about a 400-plus acre project," he added.
In late November, the East County Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) approved the Aramis solar project by Intersect Power in the northern Livermore Valley -- a separate smaller solar power plant by Sunwalker Energy in the same area was approved weeks later.
Friends of Livermore solar committee chair Michael Fredrich and Tamara Reus, president of Friends of Open Space and Vineyards, said in a joint letter to county planning director Albert Lopez that they only learned about the original Aramis appeal hearing date informally from county staff on Dec. 11.
Fredrich and Reus argued holding a hearing in mid-January also would have placed "a significant burden" on volunteers for both groups to prepare, especially during the holidays.
"The compressed time frame in which the solar hearings have occurred has put additional pressure on us to be able to keep up with the applicants and the county," they said.
Another grassroots organization also fighting both projects, including appealing the recent zoning board's decision on Aramis and requesting time extensions for the hearing, praised the delayed hearing.
Chris O'Brien, steering committee chairman for Save North Livermore Valley, said in a statement, "We are pleased that Intersect Power will no longer be allowed to rush the review of its massive Aramis industrial solar power plant proposed for the scenic North Livermore Valley, an area specifically designated by voters for the preservation of agriculture and open space."
The organization also supports Haubert's call for a moratorium on reviewing new solar plants on agricultural land "until the county completes a comprehensive study and mapping project on the appropriate siting, scale, and operation of solar power plants, if any, on agricultural land, and incorporates this work in a solar ordinance and General Plan Amendment," O'Brien said.
Aramis developer Intersect Power also filed an appeal, challenging county-imposed conditions of approval around increased wildlife buffer, setbacks and agricultural plantings.