Even as the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency prepares for a public hearing on a proposed new uniform tax-exempt policy, the agency again will accept applications for tax breaks from wind power developers.
The agency’s board, meeting Thursday morning, agreed to lift its moratorium on applications from developers.
“If we accept an application now, we will use the uniform tax-exempt policy,” said Donald C. Alexander, chief executive officer of the agency. “There is an extensive amount of work to do with an application.”
He said consideration of applications for payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements, which are governed by the policy, will take longer than six months.
“Why wouldn’t anyone who hasn’t spent the money and talked about a project be serious?” asked Urban C. Hirschey, chairman of the board.
Mr. Alexander said, “We can’t start discussions with them until an application is filed, because officially, we don’t know they exist.”
Both BP Alternative Energy, developer of Cape Vincent Wind Farm, and Acciona Wind Energy USA, developer of St. Lawrence Wind Farm, have asked the agency to speed the process so they can get PILOT agreements in place.
On Wednesday, the agency sent 112 copies of the proposed policy to all of the taxing jurisdictions in the county – every town, village, school district and the county government. The jurisdictions have 60 days to comment.
The policy outlines what standard PILOT agreements are and when the agency will use them. If a development is eligible for one of the allowed standard PILOTs, the agency board can avoid going to each taxing jurisdiction for votes in every case. But the agency will have an exception for PILOTs on wind power projects so that all jurisdictions must approve that a PILOT will happen and what the distribution of proceeds will be.
Most PILOTs run 15 years and have payments based on a percentage of what the project would have paid in property taxes. Those generally are divided among a school district, municipality and the county based on the proportion of taxes that goes to each taxing jurisdiction.
The new policy includes a separate clause for renewable energy PILOTs and can extend up to 20 years. The renewable energy PILOTs would include a fixed base payment per megawatt, increasing each year, and supplemental payments based on high electricity prices. Exact figures would be included in a project development agreement.
The format follows the PILOT that was instituted for Galloo Island Wind Farm in February.
In any case, PILOTs already can be approved only after the state environmental quality review and site plan review process is complete.
The 12-page packet the agency sent to the jurisdictions also includes a summary of the six ongoing PILOT agreements, which range from an average of $1,850 to $189,621 in payments to the jurisdictions.
The agency will hold a public hearing on the uniform tax-exempt policy, or UTEP, at 7 p.m. Nov. 3 at the amphitheater at Jefferson Community College, Coffeen Street. The board could vote on the policy Nov. 4.
“There’s been a great deal of confusion with respect to the UTEP brought on by the controversial nature of wind farms,” Mr. Alexander said. “Though we’re changing the policy, the basic elements of the policy don’t change. Every affected taxing jurisdiction agrees with the nature and distribution of the PILOTs that affect their jurisdiction.”
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