Details continue to hold up a $260 million wind farm project in Woodford County, where three township boards are squabbling over particulars of legal responsibility with project developers.
The boards of Panola, Greene and Clayton townships, in a special session Saturday, approved a road agreement that they now will present to wind farm developer Navitas Energy.
While representatives from Navitas had not yet looked over the agreement, based on remarks by townships attorney Sheryl Kuzma at the meeting, it appears the pact holds a number of provisions that Navitas likely will reject.
Navitas has been in legal negotiations with the county and townships to build a 79-turbine wind farm in the area since late summer. The county is expected to vote on a special use permit Tuesday at its board meeting that, if approved, would leave the townships’ road agreement as one of the last remaining obstacles to the project.
The continued stalemate rankled many of the estimated 40 people who packed the tiny Panola Township Hall to attend the meeting. Many said they were tired of the drawn-out process and worried that a deadlock could cause Navitas to pull out, costing the county much-needed tax revenue from the wind farm.
“For some of the citizens in this area, it’s a no-brainer,” said Nate Hoffman of Roanoke. “It’s amazing to me that just a few people can hold up the project like this.
“I understand the townships’ concerns, but I also think they need to be reasonable about how much responsibility (they should assume),” Hoffman said.
The particulars of the disagreements between the townships and Navitas revolve mostly around liability concerns and legal responsibility for mishaps on township roads.
Kuzma said that Navitas needed to assume more responsibility than it has thus far agreed to. “This project should not be done at any risk to any of these board members or any of the taxpayers of these townships,” she said at the meeting. “We’ve held firm on that position.”
Paul Lewis, an attorney for Navitas, argued that his clients have compromised a good deal already and he has been frustrated by the townships’ insistence that Navitas assume complete responsibility and liability.
While Lewis said he had yet to look over the agreement the townships approved Saturday, if it’s not acceptable to Navitas, the company likely will continue to negotiate with the townships. Kuzma also said that further negotiations were a possibility should the agreement be rejected.
The Woodford County Board is planning to vote Tuesday on its own road agreement and a special use permit for the development, both of which are expected to pass, according to County Administrator Greg Jackson.
“The county’s intent is to move forward and to send the message that we think this is a business that we want in Woodford County,” he said.
Should the measures pass the county, Jackson said the project would not proceed until the townships reach a road agreement with Navitas.
By Eliot Brown of the Journal Star
Eliot Brown can be reached at 686-3114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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