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KMI maintains wind plan, endorses referendum

KALIDA – There’s nothing stopping Kalida’s largest employer from erecting wind turbines in an adjacent field just outside the village limits – nothing, that is, but good corporate citizenship and a sense of fair play.

Kalida Manufacturing Inc. is sticking with its plan to build two turbines, although actions this week by Kalida Village Council prevent that from happening this year, a KMI official said Wednesday.

The plan still would annex the turbines to the village, along with the 52 acres in Union Township they would occupy.

“This is the course that we set out ahead of time,” said Rick Esch, senior vice president and plant manager. “KMI is a part of the village, and we said all along we were going to go by the procedures that are in place for approval of these types of projects. This is the correct path, and we’re going to stay with that.”

On Monday, the Village Council rejected a zoning variance the turbines would require and instead put the issue on the November ballot. The referendum erases the possibility of KMI completing the turbines by year’s end, in time to collect substantial federal tax credits.

In this case, delay is not denial, Esch said.

“All that’s done is … we are not able to proceed with the current time frames that we had established,” he said. “There is a very real perception that by council delaying this, it was going to kill the project. What it does is, in its current state, it does not allow us to have the project in the time line that we wanted to have it.”

KMI formally endorsed the referendum when it asked the village Monday to hold up its request to annex the property.

“As we have stated from the beginning, we are strong supporters of the community, its citizens and the permitting process. We endorse the council putting the zoning ordinance change on the ballot in the next general election, allowing the entire community to make an informed decision on the permitting of wind energy in Kalida’s industrial zoned areas,” reads part of the statement Esch gave to the council.

KMI anticipates the federal tax credits will be extended beyond 2012, and Kalida voters will approve the zoning variance in November.

The village already has approved a preannexation agreement to share tax revenue with Union Township over the next 40 years. Township trustees tabled the agreement March 27 when more than 60 area residents expressed strong vocal opposition to KMI’s proposal. Their objections included the size of the project, its proximity to their homes, its alteration of the village skyline, and the noise the turbines would make while in operation.

With a payroll of about 370 workers, Kalida Manufacturing is the village’s largest employer. The company offers stamping, welding and subassembly of automotive frame subcomponents. It sits along state Route 224 east of the village proper, on land annexed to the village when KMI was founded in 1996.