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Solar project pulls out of Coolidge over lack of public support
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COOLIDGE — Orsted Energy received approval for its site plan with a few revisions during the Planning and Zoning Commission hearing on Oct. 6, while NextEra Energy Resources withdrew its application for the Valley Farms Solar project.

A lawyer for the Valley Farms Project asked that the application be withdrawn and taken off the agenda due to opposition from the public.

Economic Development Services Director Gilbert Lopez said the project could be revisited if the company wanted.

The site plan revisions, which the Orsted team will need to do at its proposed Eleven Mile Solar Center, include a 7-foot block wall on Sunshine Boulevard, equal to the property line of landowner Thomas Bagnall.

Other revisions for Orsted include a setback from the fence to be increased from 50 to 100 feet and for landscaping, although the commission wanted to know who would maintain the trees.

After the meeting Orsted explained that the increased setback would result in 2.8 acre less that could be used for solar generation.

“I will have to talk to my team,” Orsted Project Development Manager Donnie Joe Worth said. “That sounds like it would work with the city’s plan.”

City Manager Rick Miller on Thursday explained that this solar project and the Storey Solar Project have already been approved at the locations, so the discussion about those solar projects is over.

Worth made it very clear that Orsted plans to build as many solar panels as possible on the land.

“Our desire is to use as much as we can,” Worth said.

After Worth said the energy from the solar panel project could provide Salt River Project power for 64,000 homes, he was told no one in the room cares about SRP, which serves the Valley and not Coolidge.

Worth said the solar panels from the ground are about 6 feet high, though he was told by Commissioner Ken Bolan that they appear to be 8 feet and can be seen night and day.

Worth was asked about the landscaping and who would maintain it, and Bolan also wanted to know if there was a budget line the commission could see.

“I wasn’t expecting that question,” Worth said, which resulted in laughter from the packed city council chambers.

Worth said Orsted will be hiring locally for someone to maintain the landscaping, adding he would love to work with the city on a proper management plan to see what works and what does not.

Bagnall said he and Worth had exchanged emails about the project’s possible impacts to his property, saying the proposal made to him was to have a 7-foot block wall.

“I would like to hold him to that,” he said.

Bagnall wanted to know about the letters Orsted sent out on Sept. 29 to nearby landowners, asking them to sign a voluntary agreement in exchange for an annual payment. The amount of the payments was not disclosed.

“I never got (the letter),” Bagnall said. “Maybe, that’s because I am getting a wall.”

He wonders why these letters were sent out just one week before the site plan meeting with the commission.

Bagnall said what he wanted was for the panels to be set back, the landscaping to be properly maintained and the 7-foot block wall.

The commission and the audience were informed that Orsted can make all the commitment it wants about landscaping, but it comes down to a trust issue.

“We are in the process of generating energy,” Worth said. “Our desire is to do as much land as we can. We know we have to come back to fill in the gaps.”

Worth said he still wants to hear any questions nearby landowners might have.

“That is why this process is so important,” he said.

The Storey Solar Project site plan was tabled because some conditions, like dedicated right of way, need to be ironed out.

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Coolidge landfill closure moves closer to completion
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COOLIDGE — The Coolidge City Council on Monday night moved one step closer to closing its landfill by agreeing to enter into a cooperative purchasing agreement to provide construction management services for the closure.

While the council agreed to enter into an agreement with Wright Geotechnical of Arizona LLC to do the work, they had questions.

Councilman Ben Navarro wanted to know if something were to happen would the city be liable but was told no because the company the city is contracting with would be putting its seal on it.

Mayor Jon Thompson said he had concerns over the warranty and did not like that litigation for anything that went wrong would have to be in Maricopa County, not Pinal.

The warranty caps damages at $50,000.

“I just don’t like the many terms and conditions,” Thompson said. “I don’t like how that warranty reads. I am more concerned about the warranty.”

Thompson added that he is not unhappy with most of the agreement, but on the advice of counsel agreed to the agreement but excluded the terms and conditions.

The council was told that if everything goes well the landfill at Fifth Street and Bartlett Road would be closed by sometime in February.

After the meeting City Manager Rick Miller said this was not a quick process. The city began work on closing the small landfill in the 1990s. The overall cost to close the landfill will be about $1 million.

He also said the city’s terms and conditions supersede what was in the original agreement.

“We have known we need to get it closed, but we had to have the revenue to do it,” Miller said.

While the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is mandating the landfill closure, the city has been monitoring methane levels, which have remained low.

Of the $1 million cost, bringing in dirt took up a good amount because the landfill at the base has to be 18 inches, and the dirt on top of the foundation has to be 95% compacted. The ADEQ also has to approve the soil.

Miller said the city was able to get some of the dirt from the Arizona Water Company when it built its water recharge station.

“Everything lined up pretty well for us,” Miller said.

Pinal County did help by providing dirt for the original foundation.

Currently, the city and its residents use the landfill in Florence or Right Away Disposal, which is located outside of Eloy and operated by Waste Management. RAD will pick up bulk trash from the city for certain items.

Miller pointed out the city of Casa Grande has its own landfill, too.

Besides monitoring the methane levels at the landfill, the city put in a groundwater monitoring well so that water would not mix with the trash at the site.

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Officials cracking down on weeds, junk in Coolidge
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COOLIDGE — Following a wet summer, Coolidge officials are informing residents who are out of compliance to clean up their properties.

One major problem is weeds that are 6 inches or taller, which Coolidge Fire Chief Mark Dillon said could provide lots of fuel for fires in the fall and winter.

Lindsay Parry with code enforcement said much of the problem with weeds and other debris on properties is the result of out-of-state owners.

“They can’t make their land a storage lot,” Parry said. “It creates pests and other problems.”

About 90% of property owners who receive letters from the city telling them they are not in compliance clean up their properties. The other 10% are taken to court.

Of the 145 cases this year, 60 to 65 are active, and Parry is predicting a few of them will end up in court.

Parry said a good percentage of the landowners not in compliance are not aware of issues until they receive the letter.

The city attempts to contact a company to clean up residences that remain out of compliance and a lien is attached to the property to pay for the cleanup.

One problem the city is facing when soliciting bids to clean up properties is finding a company or handyman who will bid. But the city and code enforcement do not want it to reach that level.

“I have to see that progress,” Parry said. “As long as they are trying (to comply). They can’t create a junkyard.”

Economic Development Services Director Gilbert Lopez said this does not include people working on a vehicle, as long as it doesn’t just sit there for months.

Parry said the last option code enforcement wants is for the property owner to be taken to court.

“No one wins if you have to go to court,” Lopez said.

Lopez said the city cannot eliminate the lien even if the land is sold, though the interest could be waived.

Dillon said the weeds, which can grow to 6 inches in height before being out of compliance, are sprouting everywhere.

“Every place is bad because of the amount of rain we had,” he said. “In the winter, the fire season will be bad.”

Dillon talked about having a defensible space outside because if there is no fuel, the fire will have no place to go and will burn itself out.

Being in violation of this ordinance is a misdemeanor and a habitual offender could face a $2,500 fine and six months in jail, though that severity is pretty scarce.

Parry said besides weeds what she sees is trash, junk cars and discarded furniture.

Dillon wants residents to know the decision by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to lift its burn ban Oct. 1 does not apply to anyplace inside the city. Lighting weeds or anything on fire inside the city is a misdemeanor.

Parry pointed out that Coolidge residents are allowed to take their debris and trash to the waste drop-off center at Coolidge Avenue and Kenworthy Road for free once a month.