PIEDMONT – A group of landowners who want to lease their land to wind developers will have to wait longer for a decision to de-annex their property from the city of Piedmont.
The Piedmont City Council voted Monday evening to delay the landowners’ request for detachment and de-annexation. The petition involves 13 tracts in the sparsely populated northwest part of Piedmont.
The proposal pits the desires of landowners in the rural areas of the city against their fellow residents who are worried about property values near planned development of a utility-scale wind farm.
Piedmont’s planning commission passed a city ordinance in December outlining the steps for development of wind towers limited to a height of 80 feet or 160 feet. The ordinance forbids all other wind development inside city limits. Most commercial-grade developments need wind towers of more than 300 feet.
Virginia-based Apex Wind Energy Inc. plans to begin construction of a 300-megawatt wind farm this year. The development, called the Kingfisher wind farm, is expected to have about 120 turbines in Canadian and Kingfisher counties.
Kent Dougherty, development manager for Apex, said the company is not involved in the deannexation proposal by Piedmont landowners. Apex has leases with some of the landowners but has decided to take its project outside of the city limits after encountering opposition from officials and other Piedmont residents in November.
Mark Henricksen, an attorney for the landowners seeking the deannexation, said his clients have owned the land for more than 100 years.
“They really don’t need city hall to tell them how to run their farms,” Henricksen told the council.
Pam Suttles, a Piedmont resident who has spearheaded opposition to wind development in Canadian County, residents are in the city for services and police and fire protection.
“We are there to be protected,” said Suttles, who spoke for the Central Oklahoma Property Rights Association. “If we wanted to live in the unincorporated part of the county, we would, but we don’t want to. We choose to live in the city to be protected. So did these people. They wanted to be protected, and now we need to be protected from them, not from Apex but from our own neighbors.”
Doughterty said Apex has more than 13,000 acres leased from about 100 landowners for the Kingfisher project.
“We are largely leased,” he said in a phone interview before the meeting. “One of the strongest shows of support for this project has been the very strong landowner support. … The project came together very quickly from a land perspective, which is always a sign of the local support.”
Apex began operation of the nearby Canadian Hills wind farm in December. That 300-megawatt development is majority owned by Boston-based Atlantic Power Corp. and has 136 turbines.
“We’re in discussions with different vendors right now for the construction,” said Kevin Davis, Apex’s vice president of development. “We’re also looking for power contracts; there’s still a lot to be done on the project.”
One Piedmont landowner, Joe Husmann, said his family has owned the property since the 1950s. He grew up about two miles from the property. Husmann signed a lease option for wind development about five years ago.
“It’s just on the fringe of the city and it’s about 10 miles from the center of Piedmont,” Husmann said. “It’s halfway between Piedmont and Okarche, about as far as you can get from all of them. It just doesn’t seem like a half a mile would make a lot of difference and it would actually bring in money to Piedmont school system, but they’re not interested in that.”
Hugh Piatt, who grew up in Piedmont, said his family and neighbors have taken care of the land for generations. Piatt is representing his parents, who are in a nursing home, in the deannexation proposal.
“We are for windmills, don’t get me wrong,” Piatt said. “But the people in that northwest corner have taken care of this part of Canadian County for over a hundred years. It’s still pristine farm and ranch land, and that’s what it’s going to be.”
Opponents of wind development also took their concerns to Canadian County commissioners. After several public meetings, commissioners Jan. 14 declined to advance a proposal to create a countywide planning and zoning board for unincorporated areas of the county.
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