Maryville, Mo. – After more than a year of meetings and bureaucratic hoop-jumping, the legal framework for an Enhanced Enterprise Zone that would provide a property tax break for wind farm developers in Nodaway County has been set down in black and white.
About 35 officials representing townships, school districts, ambulance services and other taxing entities met Wednesday afternoon at the Nodaway County Administration Center during a formal public hearing to review a EEZ-creation ordinance.
Nodaway County Economic Development Director Lee Langerock said the document is complete is essentials but will probably undergo a few technical revisions before being submitted for approval to municipal boards and the County Commission in four to five weeks.
Wednesday’s hearing was another in a lengthy series of steps required for ultimate approval of the zone by the state Department of Economic Development, an action that Langerock hopes will take place before the end of September.
The ordinance’s general provisions have been known for some time and state that the EEZ, which would cover about four-fifths of the county, will be in force for 25 years. During that period, wind companies that build turbines inside the zone will receive tax breaks on new real property of between 50 and 60 percent, which translates to a minimum annual abatement of around $5,900 per megawatt.
The spread between the minimum and maximum abatement percentage has to do with differing property tax rates assessed in various parts of Nodaway County, which, due to its decentralized township form of government, has 83 separate taxing entities.
Negotiating that maze of rates is one reason wind farm developers have pressured the county to create an EEZ that will both reduce their tax liability and equalize assessment throughout the zone.
To earn the tax cut, wind developers must invest a minimum of $100,000 in their operations and create the equivalent of at least five new, full-time jobs for employees residing inside the county. According to the draft ordinance, zone participation is “discretionary,” which means companies receive the abatement only if they are approved by the County Commission on a case-by-case basis.
Once accepted into the program, Langerock said, firms must discharge their EEZ obligations, including payment of reduced tax bills, or run the risk of being penalized.
“We certainly have the ability to go back and recapture those taxes” from companies that fail to live up to EEZ requirements, Langerock said at Wednesday’s meeting.
As drafted, the ordinance provides a tax break to wind farms only. However, there is a provision for amending the document to embrace other kinds of enterprises.
Such a revision would require a recommendation from the local EEZ Advisory Board, a formal public hearing and the written consent of two-thirds of the municipal governing bodies within the zone. The proposal would also have to be ratified by the County Commission and the state of Missouri.
The wind farm EEZ is one of two such districts proposed for creation in Nodaway County. A second is located northwest of Maryville and embraces the communities of Burlington Junction, Elmo and Clearmont.
A similar public hearing for that zone’s enabling ordinance took place Wednesday evening at the Little Red Schoolhouse in Clearmont.
The so-called Northwest EEZ would offer tax abatements for both wind development and other types of enterprises, including industry and specialty agriculture.
It differs from the larger zone in other ways as well. For one thing, instead of providing an across-the-board property tax reduction for a set number of years, the ordinance sets forth a tiered schedule that would sweeten EEZ incentives based on positive economic impact.
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