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State approves wind farm tax zones

Maryville, Mo. – It took about four months longer than predicted, but the Missouri Department of Economic Development has finally approved two Enhanced Enterprise Zones designed to attract wind turbine construction countywide as well as promote various other kinds of industrial growth in the Elmo-Clearmont-Burlington Junction area.

In a pair of letters released to the Daily Forum Tuesday by Nodaway County Economic Development, DED Director Jason R. Hall authorized the designation of both the Nodaway County EEZ and the Northwest Nodaway County EEZ.

The same letters, along with documents containing official designation language, land tract lists and maps of both zones, were mailed to Presiding Commissioner Robert Schieber. The commission serves as the governing body for the zones in conjunction with a volunteer EEZ advisory board appointed for each district.

Hall’s favorable decision gives force to ordinances passed by the commission and participating local governments last summer. Those documents set forth the legal framework for the zones, which provide a property tax break of approximately 50 percent per turbine for wind farm developers.

The larger of the two EEZs comprises about four-fifths of the county and excludes only the northwest district and a handful of tracts west of Maryville.

Municipalities that opted into the wind-only main zone include Maryville, Conception, Ravenwood, Arkoe, Hopkins, Graham, Clyde, Parnell, Skidmore, Pickering, Quitman, Barnard and Guilford.

Elmo, Burlington Junction and Clearmont granted similar clearance for the northwest EEZ, which also offers tax abatements for a variety of agricultural and industrial enterprises.

EEZ provisions state that the zones will be in force for 25 years. Companies that build turbines inside the zones are to receive tax discounts on new real property of between 50 and 60 percent, which translates to a minimum annual abatement of $5,900 per megawatt. The enabling ordinances also set forth requirements for minimum capital investment and local job creation by companies seeking to take advantage of the tax break.

Wind developers must pay the county an annual $30,000 fee to cover administrative costs.

Wind Capital Group of St. Louis currently operates the county’s only wind farm, which consists of twenty-four 2.1-megawatt turbines near Conception. Those machines are not included in either EEZ and are currently assessed at the full tax rate for real property.

Despite the state’s OK of the EEZs, exactly how much tax revenue area wind farms may eventually produce is up in the air due to a legal dispute between Wind Capital and DeKalb County, which is home to a 99-turbine wind operation known as Lost Creek.

The dispute began in August, when Lost Creek turned down an assessment that gave each of the installation’s towers a market value of $930,100 and an assessed value of $297,630.

After losing before the DeKalb County Board of Equalization, Lost Creek appealed to the Missouri Tax Commission and argued that the towers have a true market value of $445,727 and an assessed value of $142,633. The case is troubling for county officials here since DeKalb used the same assessment formula that would be applied to wind development within the new EEZs.

Should Wind Capital prevail, the big losers in Nodaway and elsewhere would likely be rural school districts and small-town fire and rescue units.