Saturday, January 23, 2010

How Mitigation Can Benefit the Vacant land Investor and the Environment

Environmental mitigation describes projects or programs which are intended to offset development impacts to an existing natural resource like wetlands, endangered species, rivers and streams. Environmental mitigation is typically a part of an environmental crediting system established by governing bodies like the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) which allocates debits and credits. It is similar to the government proposed cap and trade system to offset global warming. A debit to the environment would occur when a housing developer, or Wind and Solar Company plans to develop land for commercial purposes. A debit occurs when a natural resource has been destroyed or severely impaired, while a credit is given when a natural resource has been deemed to be improved or preserved. So, when a business or individual has a debit to the environment then they are required to purchase a credit. There is also mitigation banking which is typically created in advance for multiple commercial parties when compensation credits cannot be achieved at the development site. Mitigation is a friendlier alternative to restrictive environmental laws, since development can proceed in exchange for compensation to preserve or repair a natural environment. Mitigation can also be beneficial to land owners, since some land like wash land or mountain land is not developable, but it is more suitable for mitigation. This increases the value of some non-developable land miles from development.
In Northern Los Angeles County and San Bernardino County some renewable energy companies may be required to purchase mitigation land if their projects are on BLM or other undisturbed land, which may encroach within prime desert tortoise and Mojave ground squirrel territories. The desert tortoise roams much of the desert in San Bernardino County, which will curtail any development within their habitat. Much of this land is privately owned, and may be designated as mitigation land by the government. The Solar Farm developers may be forced to buy endangered species land before a building permit is issued. This is another example where land banking is beneficial to the long term investor. Many investors think that their property will primarily increase in value due to urban development upon their property, but in this case virtually worthless desert land becomes a needed commodity to the technological advances of solar energy companies. The new growth in Antelope Valley and San Bernardino Counties is increasingly becoming green energy development, and the wise patient land investor can benefit and preserve the environment at the same time.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The City of Lancaster Planning Department is Proposing Zoning Changes to Further Wind and Solar Projects Expansion in Antelope Valley

Just this past December the City of Lancaster Planning Commission reviewed a proposal to amend the zoning ordinance to allow for wind energy uses in commercial and industrial zones, and expand solar outside of these zones. The planning department is recommending to Adopt Resolution No. 09-37 for the City Councils approval which would amend the Zoning Ordinance (Title 17 of the Lancaster Municipal Code). The order would provide regulations for co-location of small wind energy systems in commercial and industrial zones with the addition of Sections 17.12.070.W, 17.16.060.A.14, and Section 17.40.690, and Section 17.08.070.Z would allow solar electrical generating plants in rural residential zones subject to a conditional use permit. Currently, the Zoning Ordinance allows solar electrical generating plants only in heavy industrial zones with a director’s review application. In order to address the increasing demand for alternative energy, the planning staff is recommending this addition to Section 17.08.070.Z.

The City’s Zoning Ordinance is intended as a regulatory document to implement the goals, policies and objectives contained within the City’s General Plan. By approving the proposed amendments to the current Zoning Ordinance, it would further implement the policies set forth in the General Plan by allowing alternative small energy systems in the commercial and industrial zones, as well as utilizing rural residential areas to further the development of solar power plants.

This proposal and a number of other proposals shows the City of Lancaster’s increasing interest and demand to expand alternative energy projects within the city limits. There are a number of solar projects taking place outside the city limits on unincorporated Los Angeles County land. This proposal by the planning department would provide the first wind energy project within the city limits. Most of the wind energy projects are in Tehachapi, in Kern County north of Los Angeles. The proposal would also create tax revenue for the City of Lancaster, which the city doesn’t receive with County projects. Currently, the City of Lancaster has very limited heavy industrial zoning, so expanding solar projects to operate in rural residential zones expands a much wider net for solar companies. Owners of vacant unused land within the city limits of Lancaster should see a price increase for their property in the coming years if this plan gets final approval. We will keep you posted with the progress.