Coos County – A legislative solution to the dispute over the valuation of the Granite Reliable Power wind farm passed a key Senate subcommittee Tuesday and State Senator Jeff Woodburn predicted the Senate will pass the bill later this month. Woodburn said passage of the bill is important to efforts to redevelop the Balsams Grand resort.
The House has already passed HB 1590, which sets the valuation of the wind farm at $113 million for Coos County tax purposes. The figure is the valuation used in the payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement negotiated by Granite Reliable Power and the Coos County Commission.
“This is a major step toward preventing a dramatic increase in property taxes in the unincorporated towns of Dixville and Millsfield – and lifts another potential obstacle to developing the former Balsams Resort. While taking nothing for granted, I believe the Senate will overwhelmingly support HB 1590 next week,” Woodburn said.
Woodburn sits on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which passed the bill 4-1 Tuesday. Woodburn said the measure is likely to come to the full Senate for a vote on May 15. If the Senate passes the bill it then goes to Gov. Maggie Hassan for her signature. Woodburn said he would encourage the governor to sign it.
The majority of the wind farm is located in the unincorporated places of Millsfield and Dixville. In 2007, the county entered into a PILOT using $113 million as the value of the wind farm. The county said it used the figure after consulting with the state Department of Revenue Administration. In 2012, the DRA valued the property at $228.9 million and used that figure in setting the equalization valuation for Dixville and Millsfield. The two unincorporated places had their share of the county tax skyrocket. Residents of Dixville and Millsfield, who historically have paid little or no property taxes, were now facing a substantial tax bill. There are also concerns that the tax issue tax issue could hurt developers’ plans to rebuild the grand hotel and expand the ski area in Dixville.
“It’s really important to the Balsams,” Woodburn said.
The county appealed the DRA valuations to the state Board of Tax and Land Appeals but the BTLA ruled in favor of the DRA. The case is now before the state Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments in February.
Passage of HB 1590 would make the court case moot, at least for the life of the PILOT between the county and Granite Reliable Power. The PILOT is a ten-year agreement, which can be extended for a second ten-year period.
Woodburn praised the work of Rep. Robert Theberge (D-Berlin), – the prime sponsor of the bill and the support of Coos Reps. Larry Rappaport, Leon Rideout, Herb Richardson, Gary Coulombe, Yvonne Thomas, Larry Enman, and Marcia Hammon. He also said the county commissioners and treasurer Fred King have worked hard to resolve the issue.
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