The Olean Times Herald reports a possible road use agreement between EverPower and the town of Carrollton. Figures mentioned include $750 payments to private landowners in Derrick City, Pa., and $15,000 offered to Carrollton.
These small amounts suggest that any parties considering deals with EverPower might seek advice from professionals experienced in negotiating with large corporations. Private landowners who have signed agreements might be left to question whether an opportunistic company has low-balled them to the max.
What should a neighboring community expect as reasonable compensation for a road agreement? Consider that in 2011, the Allegany Town Board approved a host agreement authorizing EverPower to construct the Allegany Wind LLC turbine farm. In return, EverPower agreed to annually pay property taxes at a rate substantially below that charged town residents.
That 2011 town board neglected to demand property value guarantees in the agreement, so homeowners are at real risk of personal losses from declining property values if these giant power plants are erected. Those decreases in the town’s tax base will offset the annual wind farm payments, so what was gained? To warrant those partial tax payments, all Allegany did was to zone an industrial corridor. That is essentially it! EverPower still must negotiate separate lease agreements with private landowners.
Derrick City and Carrollton can logically argue the wind farm’s burden on them would be on a par with Allegany’s. They would be providing – at great inconvenience to their residents – the access to the wind turbine sites for the next 20 years. Thousands of deliveries of turbine components, construction equipment, gravel, concrete, etc. will be involved. That is just for the initial phase. In the future, those roads will still be needed for emergency-response vehicles, replacement parts, possible changeover of initial machines to newer models, etc. By how much will all this extraordinary traffic on such rural roads reduce the values of homes located on them?
Imagine the potential for increasing the original 29 turbines by a factor of two or more if Allegany Wind LLC is subsequently expanded. Think of all the added traffic that could, for years, flow through these quiet communities.
Why shouldn’t Derrick City and Carrollton receive at least as much Allegany? The fact is that EverPower cannot construct the wind farm without access to the proposed turbine sites. They have very limited options and require that access as badly as they needed Allegany to create a wind district. The equipment is massive and there are only a couple roads to those hilltops.
EverPower knew a road deal is crucial, yet they did not invite the participation of neighboring communities during their several years of negotiations with Allegany. It seems as if they instead treated this matter as an afterthought, perhaps expecting that less affluent rural communities would eagerly accept even paltry sums.
When does a road use offer become highway robbery? Consider the math and decide. Allegany Wind LLC is reported to be a $160 million project. A road use agreement to pay $1.6 million over the 20 or more years of the project would amount to only 1 percent of the project investment. But, even that amount is less than one-third of the payments proposed for Allegany.
Also, bear in mind that over the same period EverPower (Allegany Wind LLC) will annually receive millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies and tax relief.
A fundamental in business deals is that you don’t get what you deserve, you get only what you negotiate. Corporations such as EverPower are skilled in such negotiations and use that experience to their advantage. Carrollton and private landowners approached by EverPower might wish to reality check whether offers being made are reasonable by asking financial and legal consultants skilled in confronting the public relations and legal resources that large companies bring to bear when pushing through their corporate agendas.
Even with such assistance, no community should accept any amount if its residents don’t want a deal degrading their quality of life for 20 years or even longer. No one should be conned into a rush to judgment.
The Cattaraugus County Supreme Court has ruled that the special use permit essential for the Allegany Wind LLC project is expired, so the turbine farm cannot be constructed. The appellate court refused to overturn that ruling.
The saying goes: Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on ours.
(Kathy Boser is a resident of Chipmonk Road in Allegany and president of Concerned Citizens of Cattaraugus County.)
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