August 10, 2011

City Council approves EEZ ordinance proposal

By Tony Brown, Maryville Daily Forum, 10 August 2011

Maryville, Mo. —

The Maryville City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Monday that sets forth the legal framework for creation of an Enhanced Enterprise Zone that would provide a property tax break of around 50 percent for wind farm developers across most of Nodaway County.

Final approval of the EEZ statute must come from the state’s Department of Economic Development. However, Maryville and other municipalities included in the proposed zone are required to sign off on the ordinance before the state can act.

Lee Langerock, executive director of the Nodaway County Economic Development Corp., told the council the measure would likely die without its approval because a zone excluding Maryville likely fails to meet demographic requirements related to population density and other factors.

In addition to Maryville, municipalities whose town boards have approved the ordinance include Conception, Ravenwood and Arkoe. Expected to act later this month are Hopkins, Graham, Clyde, Parnell, Skidmore, Pickering, Quitman, Barnard and Guilford.

The zone as proposed includes about four-fifths of Nodaway County, excluding a couple of census tracts on the western edge of Maryville and a rather larger area embracing the communities of Elmo, Burlington Junction and Clearmont to the northwest.

Those three communities are in the process of creating their own, smaller zone, which would provide tax breaks for agricultural and industrial enterprises in addition to wind energy development. The main EEZ offers tax incentives to wind farms only.

Langerock said she wants to have all needed municipal approvals in hand by the middle of this month in hopes that the state will be able to gives its blessing for the creation of both zones before the end of September.

General provisions for the main EEZ have been in place for some time and state that the zone will be in force for 25 years. Approved companies that build turbines inside the zone will receive tax breaks on new real property of between 50 and 60 percent, which translates to a minimum annual abatement of $5,900 per megawatt.

A revision to the ordinance as originally drafted reduces the number of full-time, local jobs each company must create from five to two.

Zone participation is “discretionary,” which means companies receive the abatement only if they are approved by the County Commission on a case-by-case basis. Wind developers approved for membership will be required to pay the county an annual $30,000 fee to cover administrative costs.

Various companies have expressed an interest in building wind farms in Nodaway County and other parts of northern Missouri for several years. However, they have insisted on some form of tax incentive before moving forward.

Firms like Wind Capital Group of St. Louis say incentives are needed to make Missouri competitive with states like Kansas, which abates wind farm property taxes statewide.

In addition, Nodaway County’s township form of government means property taxes can vary from place to place due to the existence of more than eighty taxing entities that collect revenues for everything from schools to fire stations to roads. Potential developers have said the tax break will equalize costs, and make it easier for them to prepare contract proposals for utility companies interested in purchasing wind-generated energy.

Wind Capital currently operates the county’s only wind farm, which consists of twenty-four 2.1-megawatt turbines near Conception. The company pays full property taxes on those machines, which will not be included in the EEZ should it be allowed by the state.

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