Walnut will fight Mt. SAC’s plans to grade hillside for solar project

Mt SAC solar panels project rendering

Mount San Antonio College will start grading a hillside in Walnut next month for an 11-acre solar-generating project over the objections of the Walnut City Council, according to college officials.

College President William Scroggins said Monday he expects grading to start at the end of November or early December, apparently rebuffing repeated attempts from Walnut City Manager Rob Wishner and his staff as late as Monday afternoon to require a Conditional Use Permit.

The college answered the city, saying it is exempt from the city’s zoning and permit ordinances.

“We are not going to request a CUP,” said Scroggins, president and CEO of Mt. SAC, the largest community college in the state, located entirely in Walnut just west of Cal Poly Pomona.

The city of Walnut and the community college have been locked in a battle over several developments at the college and whether the city should have a say. A neighborhood group sued and won an injunction against a college parking garage. The city also sued, saying any project that is not a classroom must go through the Planning Commission for approval.

“The city will do everything in its power to make certain grading does not begin next month and does not happen until they go through our process,” Wishner said Tuesday.

A clause in the government code gives the college the freedom to build energy projects without a city permit, Scroggins said. The city’s zoning laws say any public utility or other energy uses in a residential zone requires a CUP.

The city considers such an exemption for “site specific” projects such as solar panels on one home or one building. Since Mt. SAC is building a 2.2-megawatt solar-generating facility with hundreds of panels on a 24-acre, college-owned parcel across the street at Temple Avenue/Amar Road and Grand Avenue, as well as an underground conduit to supply power to college buildings, this project should not be exempt from city zoning laws, said Michael Montgomery, Walnut’s city attorney.

On Monday, the city asked the California Energy Commission if a college building a large solar photovoltaic project is exempt from local zoning laws. “Proposition 39 does not exempt any Local Educational Agencies from complying with local laws,” wrote Simon Fllippov of the CEC’s Prop. 39 Hotline, in an email to city staff.

“We don’t feel that section (of state law) precludes Mt. SAC from having to attain local approvals,” said Tom Weiner, Walnut’s director of community development.

In a meeting last week, the City Council struggled with how to stop the project or convince the college to build it within the campus, not near homes. The City Council asked staff to bring experts on the California Environmental Quality Act to its next meeting on Oct. 28. One of the issues involves taking dirt from the college’s Hilmer Lodge Stadium to the solar site and contouring the steep hillside to accommodate ground-level solar panels.

Weiner estimated dump trucks carrying dirt would be crossing the city’s major intersection and traveling through Walnut streets five or six days a week for several months. “It would be an impact,” he told the City Council.

The solar project will cost approximately $7 million and will eventually shave the college’s electric power bill by about $400,000 a year, Scroggins said.

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About Steve Scauzillo

I love journalism. I've been working in journalism for 32 years. I love communicating and now, that includes writing about environment, transportation and the foothill/Puente Hills communities of Hacienda Heights, Rowland Heights, Walnut and Diamond Bar. I write a couple of columns, one on fridays in Opinion and the other, The Green Way, in the main news section. Send me ideas for stories. Or comments. I was opinion page editor for 12 years so I enjoy a good opinion now and then.

    This project takes 15 years to recoup its initial investment… and in 15 years solar panel technology will have vastly improved, making this project obsolete.

  • Scorpion_J

    That city of Walnut are just a bunch of obstructionists.

    • solstice

      Jealous and broke?

      • Gus Ramos

        Why should I be jealous, I like the way I look.Ha, Broke, you wish!

        • solstice

          I didn’t say you’re broke Mr. Ramos. How can you be broke if you’re unemployed and bankrupt? Hahaha!

  • Gus Ramos

    If the residents of Walnut are not happy,I’ll help them pack to venture where they came from. They haven’t been in this country to complain about anyrthing.

    • solstice

      I have relatives who live there and they’re born and raised in America.
      The educated people have power and will stand up to frivolous projects and government. You Mr. Ramos are a third world pacifist here to destroy America along with your welfarites. Please go back to Mexico.

      • Gus Ramos

        Militaty cementaries are filling up fast. The US Government wants to convert the former Marine Corps El Toro Air Base ( I left from here to go to’Nam) into a VA Cementary. Just like your group complaints about the Mt. Sac issue, a similar group is aganist the proposed cemetary. They say, their “religion prohibs they live too close to a cemetary and this would lower their propery value.”When a new football stadium was proposed along side the 60 freewat past the City of Pomona, another group wants to stop the project. Why gives? Seems like you want, give me, give me, give me. You haven’t lived in the USA long enough to complain about anything! First pay your dues. I’ ll give you an example of paying your dues. C, K, Yank came fron China and attended UCLA. He helped UCLA in track and field. When the Olympics were held, he decide to represent China, nothing wrong with that, China was his homeland. He placed second behind Rafer Johnson,his fellow UCLA teammate. He contributed a lot to UCLA in track. Get the picture?

        • solstice

          Dozens of NBA players went back to represent their own country for the Olympics. Not one went to China. You are just cherry picking your examples. Don’t tell me to pay my dues I’ve doing that for decades, and so did my parents. This is the land of opportunity not for whiners and takers like you libtard wetback who don’t belong here. You take everything for granted and think your pompous attitude can get you votes. Military cemetaries filling up it’s due to the Military Industrial Banking complex, something you wouldn’t comprehend well enough to argue about because of your lack of education you are lazy and uneducated enough to know or handle the truth.

    • unclevito

      Moving out in a year and will sell my house for a ridiculous amount to a Chinaman.

  • Gus Ramos

    Solstice I wrote this, a long time ago, what took you long to reply. For Staters Mr. or Mrs. Asian, my father, Uncle, Great Uncle and cousins served in World War Two, one Cousin was killed. My two Uncles and other Cousins served in Korea, I, along with my Brother, other another Uncle and Cousins, served in Vietnam,we’ve sent family members in every miltary operation that took place. I lost a Cousin in Iraq, other Cousins served in Afganistan.When I visit the Veterans Hospital for medication, they place the names on the monitor of the processed prescription to be picked up. I never see any Asian names. How many in your family, have seved in the military? Sorry to disappoint you,my Aunts, Ucles, sibling and cousins were all born in the United States. Go back and play with you I phone.

    • solstice

      I have better things to do than to talk to low lives like you. Serving in the military doesn’t make you more patriotic than anyone. I have condolences for your lost loved ones in wars. But up until the Vietnam War they instituted the DRAFT so you had no choice, unless you’re a rich liberal like Bill Clinton. So those who went to the military either were poor and uneducated. You’re all fighting a rich white man’s war.

      You have NO idea what life was like for people in Asia they were in constant war with each other and the west, EVERYBODY had military training, and some were sent without proper gear to fight. I’ve had relatives who died. Have you heard of Mao who led the largest genocide in history with over 25 million killed? Let’s see,the Vietnamese had 1.5 million deaths and that’s the low count, and 1 million who drowned fleeing their country as refugees. 58,000 American war deaths is a drop in the bucket, and I’m not counting WWI, WW2, Korean, etc. So Americans had it good in this peaceful continent and had a lot of opportunity to build up and become a great nation.

      This nation is an immigrant country, nobody is originally from here, not you not me nor anyone, except for Native Americans who by the way originated from you guessed it, Asia!

      I will not waste anymore of my time debating with low lifes like you. If you want to meet up with me at a Starbucks after I finish work, which by the way I help ill and incapacitated patients because I love to help people get well, hint hint, then fine with me! Just give me your number and we’ll talk face to face!

  • Gus Ramos

    Solstice, I have several degrees,speak several languages and traveld to Asia and other parts of the world. Again,send some members into the miltary, then I might respect you. Meanwhile keep crossing street looking at your i phone, no one is more iportant than you. In restaurants, and eveywhere else, I always see you wearing flip flops.I think you are the one poor. I’ll be glad to buy you a pair of shoes if you like.

  • unclevito

    So Cal Edison will eventually change the rules and these solar panels will be money losers. Also how many animals have to die and lose their habitat for these monstrosities. Put the panels on rooftops.

  • unclevito

    Solar belongs on rooftops not on the ground. Solar on the ground destroys habitats of endangered species. Besides, the solar panels you can buy today are junk. Wait about 5 years and get better, more efficient ones.

  • molerat