Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 02/09/2010 06:58:31 PM PST

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved changes to the county code in an effort to streamline the permitting process for renewable energy projects and impose tougher regulations on them.

The board voted 3-1, with Supervisor Paul Biane absent and Supervisor Josie Gonzales dissenting, to approve the changes.

After more than two hours of public comment, the board approved the changes to the county code, with some recommendations.

Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt suggested an analysis to determine a permitting process for solar energy projects on parcels more than five acres but less than 20 acres in size. He referred to such projects as “cottage solar farms.”

“It’s quite a challenge to try and ensure we have a healthy share of this industry … but why should it only be for the big guys?” Mitzelfelt said.

An initial proposal called for renewable energy projects being no less than 20 acres in size in areas zoned for rural living land use.

Dilip Sheth urged the board to lift its 20-acre or more mandate for solar projects. He has several small-scale projects on the books in Adelanto and Lucerne Valley, among other places, and is ready to start the permitting process.

He was happy with Mitzelfelt’s proposal.

“I think it’s a great way to go,” Sheth said. “They should remove restrictions on all zoning. We don’t need any more restrictions. We just need help.”

More than 60 solar projects are proposed for San Bernardino County, poised to become one of the leading regions in the world for solar power and renewable energy projects, experts say.

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