Democratic county commissioner candidate Ned Grove wants to make Highpoint a wind farm in hopes of selling electricity to help offset an expected price tag of $7.5 million or more for the scenic hilltop.
The county seized Highpoint from a Lancaster County developer in hopes it would become part of an approximately 725-acre heritage park. A jury is expected to convene at a yet-unscheduled date to determine how much the county will have to pay for it.
With the price expected to be so high, Grove would support the construction of more than three dozen windmills on the riverside property to generate money for the county, he said. Besides paying for Highpoint, selling the electricity could help the county keep property taxes under control in the future.
40 windmills: “If we could put 40 windmills up there, we could generate a lot of money” by selling the electricity, he said.
The idea comes as the future of the park remains uncertain. Its primary backers, commissioners Doug Kilgore and Lori Mitrick, lost in the May primary. Both have announced write-in campaigns but acknowledge they face an uphill battle in the November election.
Without an unlikely win, the project might end up falling in the laps of a reluctant new board of commissioners, all of whom disagree with Kilgore and Mitrick’s use of eminent domain for the project.
It’s unclear exactly what the project’s situation will be when the new board of commissioners takes take office.
The county has taken steps to end the seizure of 411 acres of Lauxmont Farms initially slated to make up the bulk of the park. But the Kohr family, Lauxmont’s owners, oppose the
move, and a judge hasn’t decided if the county’s action is legal.
The candidates on the ballot –as well as Mitrick and Kilgore – said in recent interviews that regardless of how the situation with Lauxmont works out, they would like to see preserved a former Susquehannock Indian village on the property.
When it comes to Highpoint, Grove’s idea for the property would represent perhaps the most radical change. Its stunning view of the Susquehanna River and surrounding countryside were the primary reasons Mitrick and Kilgore approved seizing it for the park project.
Commissioner Steve Chronister would like to preserve Highpoint but said it’s important to keep all options open – including selling some or all of it – in case the cost is too high.
He opposed Mitrick and Kilgore’s decision to place a permanent conservation easement on the property that protects it from development.
Chronister said he’s in favor of preserving at least the Susquehannock village site of Lauxmont Farms, possibly through buying development rights.
Grove agreed with the idea of preserving the Susquehannock site, but using only private dollars.
“There’s a lot of wealthy people that want this,” he said. “They can kick some money in.”
Republican candidate Chris Reilly said he would keep Highpoint open to the public as a park and said he would like to preserve the Susquehannock site, although not with eminent domain.
“I’m willing to look at options down the road to do that,” he said of preserving the site.
Democrat Doug Hoke said Highpoint “very well might stay an outlook and a park.”
He would be interested in working out a deal with the Kohrs to preserve the Susquehannock site, he said.
A bankruptcy trustee would also be involved since the trustee is responsible for selling down Kohr assets to pay down debts stemming from a 1989 Kohr bankruptcy.
Save site: Mitrick said she would like to preserve the Susquehannock site. If a judge rules the county can end the eminent domain process on the land, she would pursue some type of settlement to preserve it, she said.
Both she and Kilgore said they hope Highpoint remains a public park.
Like Mitrick, Kilgore said he would like to see the Susquehannock site preserved.
If the judge rules the county must continue with the eminent domain process on the land, he would try to reach a settlement to open the village site to the public, he said.
He doesn’t like Grove’s idea to put a wind farm on Highpoint, he said.
“I’m all for alternative energy, but not there,” he said.
By Carl Lindquist
22 October 2007
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