May 31, 2011

Commission sticking with wind-only EEZ

By Tony Brown, Maryville Daily Forum, 31 May 2011

Maryville, Mo. – Nodaway County continues to work toward state approval of a pair of Enhanced Enterprise Zones that would create significant property tax abatements for wind energy developers as well as similar tax breaks for both wind wind farms and specialized types of agriculture and industry in the northwest part of the county.

On Friday, the three-member County Commission met briefly with Lee Langerock, executive director of the Nodaway County Economic Development Corp., and Jeff Mehlenbacher, superintendent of Northeast Nodaway R-V Schools and a member of a state-mandated advisory board set up to advise the commission on the larger of two proposed zones.

Mehlenbacher and Langerock said the board wanted direction from the commission with regard to limiting the zone, generally referred to an an EEZ, to wind development only. Langerock said recent board discussions had addressed the possibility of expanding a draft EEZ ordinance, which must be approved by the state, to include other kinds of enterprises.

One possibility, she said, would be an ordinance providing tax breaks to firms seeking to develop other forms of alternative energy besides wind power.

However, Presiding Commissioner Robert Schieber said the commission’s intent has always been to limit the scope of the larger EEZ to wind power only.

“From out perspective, I think we are looking at wind and not at anything else,” Schieber said.
The EEZ under discussion Friday would embrace most of the county except for a couple of small areas west of Maryville. The second zone is to comprise an area centered around the communities of Burlington Junction, Clearmont and Elmo.

South District Commissioner Bob Stiens said there might come a time when the county would want to look at extending the larger zone to include other types of enterprises, but to do so now would delay a process that has already been underway for well over a year.

“We want to move this forward,” Stiens said. “What I’m afraid of is that we would have to go through the process again if we were to add other industries at this point.”

County Assessor Rex Wallace, who attended Friday’s session, said one of the main reasons for seeking a wind-only EEZ in the first place was because wind farms are ineligible for such economic incentives as tax increment financing and blight abatement available to other industries.

“These businesses have other opportunities whereas (wind) turbines have none,” said Wallace, who added that fairness was also an issue, and that offering tax breaks to some companies and not others would open a “can of worms” in terms of the county’s relationship with existing industries.

Mehlenbacker and Langerock both said the board was not pushing for the inclusion of non-wind enterprises but simply wanted clarification from the commission before moving forward with a final draft of the ordinance.

As currently envisioned, the larger of the two zones would create a wind-farm tax abatement on real property of 50 percent over 10 years, at which point the EEZ could either be renewed or allowed to lapse.

The entire seven-member EEZ advisory board is to meet during a special commission session scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday on the first floor of the County Administration Center. At that time the panel is expected to discuss plans for finalizing the EEZ ordinance in preparation for a public hearing set for July.

Depending on the hearing’s outcome, Langerock said, a completed ordinance could be submitted to the state by the end of August with EEZ approval expected about four weeks after that.

A meeting of a similar board currently drafting an ordinance for the proposed northwest Nodaway County zone has been set for June 23.

Nodaway County currently has a single wind energy operation, which is owned by Wind Capital Group and consists of twenty-four 2.1-megawatt turbines near Conception. The turbines, which would not be affected by the EEZ tax break, generate property tax bills of between $23,000 and $26,000 a year, depending on where they are located.

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