ANTRIM – The Select Board once again signed an agreement for a Payment in Lieu of Taxes, known as a PILOT, with Antrim Wind Energy following a public hearing on Thursday night.
The agreement will allow the company to pay an agreed upon set amount every year, rather than taxes based on its assessed value. The PILOT agreement has Antrim Wind Energy making a payment of $11,250 per megawatt of capacity in the first year, with the amount increasing by 2.5 percent each year. This is the same amount agreed upon in the original PILOT signed between the town and Antrim Wind previously. The major difference between this PILOT and the previous one, is that the new PILOT acknowledges that Antrim Wind Energy may only be putting up nine turbines instead of 10. The agreement will pay out a total of $8.6 million over the course of 20 years, if the project is approved with 10 wind turbines. The new version of the PILOT also includes 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 market value assessments of the project.
In January, the state Site Evaluation Company turned down an application by Antrim Wind Energy for a proposed 10-turbine, 30-megawatt project, based on negative aesthetics. Since that decision, Antrim Wind has filed with the SEC requesting a reversal of the decision or a rehearing, after making efforts to mitigate those view impacts. Most significantly, Antrim Wind Energy has expressed a willingness to eliminate one of the 10 towers, the one closest to Willard Pond, which also is the one on the highest elevation and the most visible. Antrim also has accepted a proposed $40,000 mitigation fee to alleviate view impacts to Gregg Lake.
The Site Evaluation Committee will meet July 10 to consider whether to rehear or reverse its decision.
This is not the first time Antrim and Antrim Wind Energy have come to such an agreement – the town previously signed a nearly identical PILOT agreement with the developer. However, multiple residents took the town to court over the way the Select Board and Antrim Wind had crafted the agreement, alleging that the agreement had been reached after a series of illegal meetings between the two. The Hillsborough County Superior Court ultimately agreed with the residents, and the PILOT agreement was declared invalid on May 20.
The Select Board went back to the drawing board with the PILOT agreement, and went through the process again. And at the close of the second public hearing on the PILOT on Thursday, they signed the new agreement.
The same night, the Select Board also held a public hearing on another incentive offered by Antrim Wind: The conservation of over 100 acres of land at the site of the proposed turbines. Whether or not the town should hold the easement will be left up to voters at the next March meeting. If accepted, Antrim Wind Energy will purchase the development rights to the land, and the town will hold the easements. At Thursday’s meeting, the Select Board signed a letter of intent.
“It commits Antrim Wind Energy and the Bean family to the terms of the agreement,” said Select Board Chair Gordon Webber in an interview Monday.
A selection of residents presented a petition to give the town the right to make the decision regarding the easement during Town Meeting, but according to Select Board Chair Gordon Webber, that was always the plan. “The Select Board cannot accept or sign an easement without it going to vote,” Webber said in an interview Monday.