LOGAN COUNTY – Logan County commissioners unanimously rejected an application seeking payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) in the Scioto Ridge Wind Farm Tuesday.
A resolution on the decision states the action was taken in a regular open session of the commission. The resolution notes portions of the application the board found to be “incomplete” or “inadequate” and summarizes the application process from the time it was submitted.
“The Logan County Board of County Commissioners is not convinced that over the life of the project that granting PILOT would benefit the community,” the resolution states. “Likewise with respect to job creation, the Logan County Board of County Commissioners is not convinced that the amount of taxes abated would be exceeded by the benefit of gaining relatively few permanent employees.”
Hardin Wind, LLC, filed the application with the Ohio Development Services Agency on April 8. The agency approved the application on April 20 and Logan County Commissioners received it on April 22.
After commissioners requested a 30-day extension to consider the application, the extension was approved by the development services agency.
A public meeting aimed at listening to comments from the public was held on May 17. The commission’s resolution states the meeting was attended by 150 people with 40 citizens speaking against the project and only the project developer speaking in favor of the project.
The Scioto Ridge project application was originally filed in June 2013, proposing more than 170 turbines in Hardin and Logan counties. The Ohio Power Siting Board certified the project on March 17, 2014.
The project was appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court in August 2014. The court dismissed the case on Dec. 18, 2015.
In a press release Wednesday, project developer EverPower expressed disappointment in the commission’s decision to reject the PILOT plan that would have enabled the project to move forward while benefiting landowners, schools and the county. Eighteen turbines were proposed to be built in Logan County.
The release states the rejection of the PILOT application means no turbines will be built in Logan County, but the project will proceed in Hardin County with 87 turbines.
“We have worked for months with landowners, their neighbors, school and county officials, to put together a PILOT package that would maximize funding to the direct benefit of the county as a whole,” said Chris Shears, Chief Development Officer for EverPower. “We are disappointed that the Logan County Commissioners decided to reject the PILOT, which could have had a positive impact on the area, but we respect the decision and thank the county for their consideration. We look forward to working with Hardin County on the larger part of the project.”
Under legislation passed in 2010 by the Ohio General Assembly, EverPower states PILOT allows alternative energy providers to make an up-front tax payment – based on a set floor of kilowatt hours – to local communities instead of being taxed at a higher rate per commercial wind turbine or solar installation. EverPower states school districts in Van Wert County have seen significant, positive benefits from PILOT funding including the financing of new school buildings, major upgrades to other buildings and more beneficial programs for students.
EverPower stated a PILOT plan was approved in Hardin County and will generate up to $37 million over the 25-year life of the project for Hardin County and local school districts.
Project manager Jason Dagger told the Daily Citizen that PILOT was approved in Hardin County in 2010. He said Hardin County created an alternative energy zone that was later rescinded, but the company was grandfathered in under the program.
“The alternative energy zone sets the taxing rate at $9,000 per megawatt, similar to the payment in lieu of taxes, and the structure is that it operates the same way,” Dagger said.
Dagger said the company hopes the Scioto Ridge project will be under construction late this year.
EverPower is developing the Buckeye Wind project, proposed to construct more than a combined 100 turbines in Champaign County through two phases of the project. Dagger said a PILOT application has not been filed in the project and there is no timeline to submit an application.
Over the life of the project, Dagger said, the Buckeye Wind project could provide roughly $1.8 million annually in tax revenue.
Commission discusses issues with application
Within their resolution, commissioners referenced the Ohio Administrative Code with regards to information missing from the application.
This included lack of a complete or accurate list of names and addresses of each taxing unit impacted by the project, lack of a complete or accurate list of fire and emergency responders for each jurisdiction in which any part of the project is located and including a certificate from each such fire and emergency responder confirming that the applicant consulted with the fire and emergency responder in developing a training plan for response to emergencies related to the project.
The commissioners stated the application does not contain certificates from each emergency responder confirming the applicant equipped or developed in consultation with emergency responders a plan for equipping emergency responders with proper equipment as reasonably required to enable them to respond to emergencies related to the project. The commissioners stated the application does not contain a certificate from the county engineer with an agreement related to repairing, rebuilding and reinforcing roads, bridges, and culverts affected by the project.
“The application does not list the number of temporary and permanent jobs created from the project, nor does the application include figures on the amount of tax revenue created from the project or the total cost of the project,” the resolution states. “Specifically, the application does not include such information as to the Logan County portion of the project. Curiously, the application does not even request a tax exemption at all.”
Commissioners were critical of the project developer stating they had “created confusion and given misinformation to the press through statements and advertisements causing misunderstanding with the public.”
Dagger said it was unfortunate the commissioners felt there was confusion with the project.
“That was not our intent,” Dagger said. “Taxes are always a complicated issue and we try to do our best to explain the pros and cons of any tax situation and the PILOT is an attempt to make a complicated issue a little more simpler. I guess in their minds there was still some confusion on that – it was never our intent to confuse anybody we tried to be as open and forthright about the tax situation as possible.”
The commissioners were also critical of some residents who were against the project.
“The actions of a very few involved against the project have been rude, distasteful, offensive, hostile, and at times completely repugnant,” the resolution states. “Some have spread rumors that one or more of the Logan County Commissioners has signed contracts for turbines or received other financial benefits from the developer. Some have attempted to threaten or intimidate members of immediate family of the county commissioners in an effort to frighten or bully the commissioners into a position. The actions of these few have only harmed the credibility and character of those opponents of the project.”
County commissioners stated if the only feasible way the project could move forward was through a tax exemption and payment in lieu of taxes then something is wrong with the state tax law.
“Tax abatements are to incentivize development in a specific location, not to create the business model for the project to be developed,” the resolution states. “It is curious that under the energy project law, the local governments are expected to take a loss of revenue while the state of Ohio’s tax revenue (commercial activity tax, kilowatt hour tax, etc.) is to remain entirely whole.”
The commissioners requested and received written comments from the Benjamin Logan Board of Education, the Ohio High Point Board of Education, and from trustees in Richland and Rushcreek Townships. The written comments were attached with the resolution.
In a letter sent on behalf of Benjamin Logan’s Board of Education, Superintendent David Harmon stated it is not in the best interest of the board to take a stance one way or another.
“If this board of education were to publicly endorse this project, we would have many constituents who would be frustrated and disappointed in the board of education,” Harmon states. “We would be seen as helping to make this project happen when some of our voters are not in favor of it. Conversely, this board of education will not publicly denounce this proposed project.”
In a letter from Ohio Hi-Point Superintendent Dr. Rick Smith and board of education president Anne Reames, the career center states it has 14 districts in five counties and takes the position to support the position taken by school districts in each county.
“It is these districts that have the greatest impact of a wind project placed within their borders,” the letter states. “Most of our benefit would be in jobs and potential internships for students in learning a new job market.”
Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.