Compromise on a proposed wind farm – including a hefty tax incentive offered by the developer – was the topic Wednesday night of a special work session of the El Paso City Council.
At issue was the council’s opposition to a proposed 42-tower wind farm in Woodford County’s Palestine and El Paso townships.
Wanda Davies, a spokeswoman for Minnesota-based Navitas Energy, met with the council to offer alternatives and address the board’s concerns.
“We’re willing to come to an understanding,” said Davis. “We don’t want this to be all or nothing, but we are willing to forge ahead if it comes to that.”
Davis said Navitas is committed to the project and is proposing a couple of concessions to win the council’s support.
The company is willing to pay taxes equivalent to six towers if the city grows out to an area where a wind tower is built, and taxes for 12 towers if a site has two towers. Davis said the taxes would be approximately $2,000 per tower annually.
“We’re also willing to agree to move cables and roads if they were an impediment to a development,” said Davis.
The board agreed to consider the proposals, but voiced strong concern about how the development would affect the cities growth. Mayor Herb Arbuckle said 12 of the 42 wind towers would be developed on the city’s west side, which would negatively impact the recently approved comprehensive plan.
“We have to look at developing the city 10 to 20 years into the future, and there is no direct benefit to the city,” said Arbuckle. “Property values are harmed when these towers go up. Just look at all the for-sale signs along the Ellsworth wind tower development.”
Davis cited studies rebutting declining property values, and added the real estate market is bad nationwide and that can’t be blamed on wind farms. Davis said the development would potentially add $400,000 to $500,000 in revenue for the school district.
Despite her assurances, the councilmen doubted the promised income.
“Nothing is in stone,” said Councilman Tim Porth. “No one’s sure if they (the school district) will get the money, and we’ll be stuck looking at these things after you guys have gone.”
For Councilwoman Katy Lowery, the additional money was promising, but she still has doubts.
“The potential tax looks great, but I feel like I’d be selling my soul and the town’s on a risk,” said Lowery. “We have a lot of projects we’d like to do if we have the money, but at what cost?”
Land developer Jeff Baggett told the council he would have a hard time marketing a development near a wind farm, and said the city could be better served by attracting more business.
“El Paso is at the intersection of Route 24 and Interstate 39, with an east-west train and within a short driving distance to Peoria and Bloomington and Pontiac,” said Baggett. “Building a wind farm will limit the city’s ability to draw business which would employ more people and bring more tax money.”
31 May 2007
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