Commissioners table a new wind farm pact; E.ON willing to reduce size of project under new agreement
Opponents of the proposed Wildcat Wind Farm in eastern Howard County are willing to gamble the company won’t move forward with the project in the next two weeks.
The opponents applauded the Howard County commissioners’ decision Monday to table a renegotiated economic development agreement with E.ON Climate & Renewables.
The motion to table the agreement was made by Brad Bray and seconded by Tyler Moore, president of the board. It passed by a 2-to-1 vote with Paul Wyman casting the no vote.
“Postponing today puts you at greater risk,” Wyman said before the vote. “If we don’t get the compromise in place, the project could be much larger. We reached the best possible compromise.”
Since the renegotiated agreement has not been approved, E.ON is free to apply for improvement location permits under the terms of the original economic development agreement.
Bray said he shares some of the same concerns as opponents and wanted more time to absorb the information.
“I felt I needed to make a motion to table,” he said.
As proposed, the renegotiated economic development agreement reduces the size of the project by almost 50 percent.
The original Wildcat Wind Farm project in Howard and Grant counties was expected to be an estimated $218 million agreement. Andy Melka, project manager for E.ON, said the minimum investment would be $60 million through the new pact.
“We have cut the project size and potential turbine locations,” Melka said.
The agreement commissioners tabled calls for E.ON to pay $500,000 to the county over five years instead of a proposed 10 percent reduction, or an estimated $750,000, on the 10-year tax abatement.
Larry Murrell, Howard County attorney, said the lower dollar amount was a result of E.ON scaling back the project.
Terms of the new agreement that remained unchanged include: A 1,500-foot setback from the residences of non-participating property owners and 1,250 feet from participating property owners; a change in the allowed noise level from 55 decibels to 50 decibels for non-participating and 52 decibels for participating property owners; a Federal Aviation Administration-approved light shield to limit the observance of the red lights on top of the turbines; shadow flicker restrictions and wetland protection changes.
Before the vote, resident Joe Russeau asked how the commissioners could sign the agreement with the amount of opposition to the wind farm in the past few months.
“We’ve talked about this meeting after meeting,” Moore said. “I’ve been criticized for not knowing how to run a meeting and letting people speak on the same topics. This has been a struggle.”
Moore said as elected officials the commissioners don’t get to do the popular thing all the time.
“There are people who want to see this project come to eastern Howard County,” he said.
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