The news that the Pahnamid Wind Energy project has been withdrawn from the County Planning Office is good news to most of us up here on the mountain. After spending several million dollars between the City of Tehachapi’s General Plan, the County’s Specific Plan, and the Kern Council of Government’s “Blueprint,” it would be foolish to start making zoning changes at the first opportunity. These plans all had considerable public input, and were several years in the making.
Kudos are due to Supervisor Zack Scrivner and Kern County Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt for being pro-active on the matter and advising the company to reconsider their plan. In the past, it has seemed like the County Planning Department has simply passed through whatever came across its desk. Then, after expensive EIRs were conducted, it seemed like the County Supervisors were always reluctant to say “No.”
It now looks like Scrivner and Oviatt have finally put the “planning” into the County Planning Department.
One person who is undoubtedly not happy with the decision is the property owner, Phil Wyman. We have heard lately from more than one large ranch owner that it is becoming more and more difficult to afford to keep their land out of development. The limestone mine on the Broome ranch that was approved by the County a few years ago is a case in point. The Broome family said they could no longer cover taxes and expenses on their land by raising cattle, and needed to find other ways to make the land financially productive.
When the Pahnamid proposal was first announced, I called Holly Hart to ask her opinion on it. Besides being a former School Board member, Holly for many years was the director of the Smart Growth organization for Kern County. She has also served as the director of the Tehachapi Resource Conservation District.
Holly suggested that our large ranch owners would be wise to make 100-year plans for their properties. The Tejon Ranch, she pointed out, has made a plan that would allow 90 percent of its land to remain undeveloped. Although the development they propose for the remaining 10 percent is controversial, it does provide a model for what might be done with other large land holdings.
Perhaps these other ranch owners, including Mr. Wyman, might take a cue from Tejon and come up with a long-range plan for securing the future of their land. To that end, they could invite ideas from the public, from governmental agencies and from environmental groups.
With a good plan in place, the land owners could ensure that the resources on their property could be properly managed and a sustainable revenue flow established.
The plan could involve a buy-out of development rights, a forestry program, or some other use that has not even been considered as yet. Such a plan would prevent the land from being exploited on a project-by-project basis, with the often accompanying public outcry.
The public could then feel confident that views, serenity and the nature-based lifestyle of Tehachapi would be protected.
Seems to me like something well worth considering.
DEBORAH HAND lives in Tehachapi and is the owner of Fiddlers Crossing, located at 206 E. F St. at Robinson Street, in Downtown Tehachapi.