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Newberry Springs solar farm: Residents say they were duped

March 28, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The controversy over a solar farm in San Bernardino County hits a boiling point. Residents in Newberry Springs, where the farm is located, say they've been duped. Many of them are upset about how big the panels turned out to be.

For seven years, Newberry Springs resident Dave Wood has not only enjoyed the walks with his dog, but the incredible view of the mountains -- until recently. He says the development of a 27-acre solar farm right across the street from his home has blocked many of the mountain views, almost entirely.

"My dog and I usually go for a walk in the morning or in the evening, and I can look at the mountains out there, and now they seem to be gone," said Wood.

Wood said it wasn't supposed to be this way. Early on, the original owner of the property said the panels were only going to be about 7 feet tall. But that soon changed.

A couple of years ago, residents got a notice from the county talking about some project changes. In reading the proposal, it says the project will now "use less equipment with less land disturbance." So upon reading that, residents thought, "Great!" Many of them did not read further into the document that the panels would now be a lot higher. In fact, it's 27.5 feet high.

"It caught us totally by surprise," said Wood.

Wood and others out there say they feel misled. Ron Frame, a spokesman for the county supervisor in this district, doesn't disagree.

"Obviously the community was led to believe it was going to be a smaller scope and be not as invasive as the project turned out to be, so it's incumbent upon us in the supervisor's office to open up the communication a little better between the constituents and the county government," said Frame.

So even though the county is going to be monitoring things more closely in the future, for residents of Newberry Springs, it's a tough lesson in reading the fine print.

I asked Wood how mad he is about the situation.

"Mad enough to offer them the property. If they want to buy me out and get me someplace else, they can have my property," he replied.

We reached out to the company in charge of the solar farm for comment, but we have not heard back.


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