Valencia County says no to PNM solar plant

pnmsolarLOS LUNAS – Valencia County commissioners have voted down a proposed zone change for a 100-acre Public Service Company of New Mexico solar plant, its fourth such project in the county.

Commissioners and various landholders in the area spoke against the project, worrying about glare, property values, views and more industrial development.

The proposed plant was going to be on the south side of Meadow Lake Road, east of Dairy Road in the district of Commissioner Alicia Aguilar, who made the motion to deny the zone change.

The only permissible zoning for such a plant is I-3, or heavy industrial, which allows for such industry as slaughter plants, coal-fired power stations and auto salvage yards.

Aguilar said she viewed the change from outland district to I-3 to be “spot zoning” and thought the plant would obstruct views. She also said changing the zoning for PNM’s solar project could set a bad precedent, making it hard for the county to turn down future requests for things allowed in a heavy industrial zone, such as gravel pits and salvage yards.

PNM representative Laurie Moye said the edge of the panels would be seen from the road, but structures in outland district zones already could be built nearly three times taller.

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Laura Sanchez, one of only two people who supported the project, said she was excited about the potential benefit for her school-age children. The solar plant would have added about $156,000 annually to the county property tax rolls.

Moye said the latest solar site developed by PNM in the county, the Manzano View facility, is immediately adjacent to a residential development. “To my knowledge, we haven’t had any complaints out there,” she said.

Moye explained PNM has an alternate site where it could build in another county.

The commissioners denied the zone change last month on a 3-2 vote, with Aguilar and Commissioners Lawrence Romero and Jhonathan Aragon voting in favor of the denial. Commissioners Charles Eaton and Mary Andersen voted against it.

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