While the City of Golden has long been an ardent supporter of sustainable and renewable energy, a proposal by a developer to place a 10-acre solar array on top of South Table Mountain has been met with a large helping of pushback.
In fact, there’s so much pushback that Golden City Council plans to pen a letter to Jefferson County to express its concern and position before an April 6 County Board of Adjustments hearing on the proposal.
The recent request from Bear Creek Development Corporation has stirred the memory — and the ire — of locals who have fought to protect the pristine open space area enjoyed by many.
Edee Gail has lived on Golden for close to 26 years and remembers when Oregon-based footwear giant Nike once proposed to place a 5,000-employee campus atop the same location.
Gail was among the first residents to organize and form Save the Mesas, a local group that advocates keeping the mesa areas as open space.
“Save the Mesas opposes any development on South Table Mountain,” said Gail in a statement provided to The Golden Transcript. “The proposal by Mr. Jeffry Bradley and his family Bear Creek Development Company calls for the equivalent of eight football fields of a solar PV (photovoltaic) array, plus the required metal fencing and one-half or more miles of cable dug or strung running down the north side of South Table Mountain to 32nd Avenue to an acceptable Xcel Energy transformer. This proposal is inconsistent with the requirements of the publicly approved Jefferson County Central Plains Community Plan which calls for the top and slopes of South Table Mountain to be open space.”
The current proposal for the solar array is essentially a resubmittal of a miscellaneous permit request processed by the county in 2018, according to a staff report from the city.
Shortly after, the county initiated a court case asserting that the Bear Creek Development Corporation did not have sufficient legal access to its parcels on South Table Mountain.
Additionally, the county amended regulations such that a “Board of Adjustment Special Exception” would be necessary to authorize the installation and operation of a “commercial energy conversion system.”
A memo from Jefferson County Open Space Senior Parks Planner Kristina Duff points out that the county has, to date, invested approximately $15 million to preserve South Table Mountain.
“Preservation of STM’s Open Space has been a vision of the community in Jefferson County since 1972,” she wrote. “Consistent with that vision, the Jefferson County Comprehensive Master Plan’s Central Plains Area Plan identifies the subject property as, proposed open space,” adjoining STM. JCOS does not support this application, as the installation of a commercial solar array would have lasting adverse impacts on the park’s visual and natural resources and visitor experiences.”
Council members emphasized that their position on the Bear Creek solar array was not to be confused with their position on solar and renewable energy as a whole.
“We do support solar energy, but it doesn’t mean we have to support solar energy that describes South Table Mountain,” said City Councilman Paul Haseman.
After the March 29 city council meeting, council members agreed that the city would be sending a letter to the county to formalize their strong concerns about the project.