ANTRIM – After Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge David Garfunkel ruled that the town’s original PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes, agreement with Antrim Wind Energy for a proposed wind farm is null and void on May 20, town officials met with members of Antrim Wind Monday night to discuss terms for a revised PILOT, which was drafted by the wind developer.
Garfunkel ruled the PILOT was invalid after the Select Board met with Antrim Wind and its counsel in a series of illegal non-public meetings that stretch back to 2011.
In a public session Monday, terms of the revised PILOT were presented by Eolian Renewable Energy CEO Jack Kenworthy. Eolian is Antrim Wind’s parent company.
The payments for the project in the proposed new PILOT are the same as in the previous agreement – $11,250 per megawatt in the first year, with the amount increasing by 2.5 percent each year. In total over 20 years, Antrim Wind would pay $8.621 million by the time the PILOT expires, if the development includes 10 turbines.
Select Board Chair Gordon Webber said in a phone interview Tuesday that there are a few changes from the voided PILOT agreement, but a lot of the information remains the same. One of the potential changes has to do with the size of the project and, thus, the total megawatts it would produce. In Antrim Wind’s appeal to the SEC submitted Monday, the wind developer offered a mitigation option to downsize the project from 10 turbines to nine. That would put the total capacity of the facility at 27 megawatts instead of 30. Should the project only include nine turbines, Antrim Wind would still pay $11,250 per megawatt, plus an additional 2.5 percent each year.
“In the new PILOT, we’re going to get revenue based on how many megawatts it is,” Webber said. “[Antrim Wind] is offering to give up tower 10, if it will help overturn the original decision.”
Another change Webber noted was the inclusion of an alternative PILOT agreement, which could be implemented if the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration increases cooperative school district and county tax contributions based on full and true market value assessments of the project. Webber said he thinks the town makes out a little better with the first revised agreement, but that the alternative agreement in this case is necessary.
The town will hold a public hearing on the revised PILOT agreement on June 24.
“We are reserving comments on [the PILOT] until the public hearing,” Webber said, noting that the Select Board will deliberate on the PILOT after the hearing.
Resident Charlie Levesque, one of the five petitioners who took the town to court citing illegal non-pubic meetings, which resulted in the first PILOT being declared void, was at the meeting Monday night. He said in a phone interview Tuesday that there should be no PILOT agreement between the two parties whatsoever.
“I think having Antrim Wind Energy pay full taxes is the way to go. There shouldn’t be a PILOT,” Levesque said. “There is no reason to give them a tax break.”
A PILOT agreement would be significantly less expensive for the business than regular taxation, said Webber, especially in the first years. But the majority of the $50 to $70 million value of the project lies with the turbines, which would depreciate drastically over time. While in the first year of business Antrim Wind might pay between $1.5 and $2 million under a traditional tax payment, in 20 years the depreciation value would mean that the town wouldn’t see near that amount. The PILOT is also an incentive for businesses to establish themselves and bring revenue to the town, and a way to secure a steady stream of tax payments over 20 years, Webber said.
Peter Burwen of Antrim said in a phone interview Tuesday that he hopes the Select Board will represent all of the people in the town moving forward, rather than just those who are pro-wind. “My hope is that the Site Evaluation Committee upholds their decision and that they send Antrim Wind packing,” Burwen said. “We have to go back to abiding by the rules.”
Both Burwen and Levesque said that the timing seems a little off to be discussing a new PILOT agreement when the appeal process to the SEC’s decision has just closed and the project now awaits further direction. “There’s no reason to do it now,” Levesque said. “Not with so many things up in the air.”
Reporter Ashley Saari contributed to this article.
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