Members of an anti-wind farm organization say they feel betrayed, and the councilman the group backed during a recall election over a controversial wind farm has said he will vote against any agreement allowing turbines near Piedmont’s borders.
The Piedmont Citizen first reported last month that Apex Clean Energy, the company proposing a wind farm west of Piedmont, was engaged in talks with the city of Piedmont and the Central Oklahoma Property Rights Association in an effort to come to an agreement that would place wind turbines within three miles of Piedmont’s borders, something the city council and mayor said it was against just a few months ago.
City manager Jim Crosby told the Citizen last month that an agreement was close, but the city was waiting for COPRA to sign off on such a deal. A city official confirmed Thursday that the city and COPRA had a tentative agreement in place that would place turbines within three miles of the city’s borders in exchange for payments to the city.
Whether COPRA received any financial benefit was unconfirmed. Despite Crosby’s claim that representatives from COPRA had approved turbine placement, COPRA spokesperson Pam Suttles said it was only the organization’s attorneys who had reviewed a possible agreement with Apex.
“When our attorneys have a proposed written agreement they will present it to COPRA,” Suttles said in a text message to the Piedmont Citizen. “COPRA members will then vote to approve it or not approve it.”
With news that an agreement between the city and Apex might be near, some members of COPRA told the Piedmont Citizen they would be against any agreement that places turbines within three miles of the city’s borders, and other members have previously said they were against turbines anywhere between Piedmont and Okarche.
“This would be what we were fighting against,” said one member who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they had not received confirmation from COPRA leadership that an agreement was in place.
COPRA had spearheaded a recall effort against former councilman Vernon Woods who the organization claimed was seeking a compromise with Apex that was similar to one city hall and COPRA are now reported to be working on. COPRA successfully forced a recall election against Woods and unofficially backed Bobby Williamson who won the council seat in August.
Williamson, along with the majority of the council, voted in September to join COPRA in filing a lawsuit against Apex in an effort to stop wind farm construction beyond the city limits. In an email to the Piedmont Citizen on Oct. 11, Williamson said he did not support any compromise between Apex and the city that would put windmills within three-miles of the city’s borders.
Crosby has said an agreement with Apex would require council approval and would involve the city dropping its threat to file a lawsuit against the wind energy company. Because the council voted to let COPRA take the lead in any legal fight, Crosby has also said the city wants COPRA to agree to a proposal before it is taken to the council.
If the council were to approve an agreement that put turbines within three miles of the border it would be a change of tune for a council and mayor who has aggressively fought the wind farm project. Crosby and mayor Valerie Thomerson have both been active in anti-wind farm protests at county commissioner meetings and Thomerson has recently worked to lobby commissioners to implement a county planning commission that could limit turbine construction.
The willingness by the city to compromise with Apex appeared to take place after a group of landowners filed a lawsuit against the city for its efforts to stop turbine construction beyond its borders.
Apex said it is hopeful an agreement can be reached and has acknowledged ongoing talks with the city and COPRA.
“We are pleased to be making progress towards an agreement with the City of Piedmont and COPRA,” an Apex spokesperson said in an email to the Piedmont Citizen on Friday. “Apex hopes, with the continued good faith efforts of all parties, these matters can be brought to a successful conclusion in the near future.”
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