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Hassan signs wind farm valuation bill

COOS COUNTY – On Wednesday, Gov. Maggie Hassan settled the dispute over the valuation of the wind farm in Dixville and Millsfield by signing into law HB 1590.

The bill sets the value of the Granite Reliable Power’s 99-megawatt wind farm at the $113 million figure used in the tax agreement between the company and Coos County.

“This has been a long process, but finally the tax base in Millsfield and Dixville has been stabilized and with it a significant obstacle to the development of the former Balsams Resort has been lifted,” said State Senator Jeff Woodburn.

The bill ends a legal dispute between the Coos County Commission and the state Department of Revenue Administration over the valuation of the wind farm in the two unincorporated places. In 2008, the county commission entered into a payment-in-lieu-of-tax (PILOT) agreement with Granite Reliable Power. Based on a $113 million valuation for the 33- turbine wind farm, the commission set an annual PILOT payment of $495,000 or $5,000 per megawatt of capacity.

In calculating the utility property tax, the DRA in 2012 set the valuation of the wind farm at $228 million. The DRA then used that figure in calculating the total equalized valuations for Dixville and Millsfield. The result was a major increase in the property tax rate for the two unincorporated places, which historically have paid little or no property taxes.

The county commission appealed the DRA valuations to the state Board of Tax and Land Appeals, arguing the $113 million figure had been suggested by a DRA official in a 2008 meeting with the commission. The BTLA ruled in favor of the DRA but the state Supreme Court reversed part of the decision and remanded it back to the board for a rehearing.

If left to stand, local officials feared the DRA valuations would doom efforts to redevelop the closed Balsams Grand Resort. In remarks at the North Country Chamber of Commerce annual dinner in May, developer Les Otten listed the issue as one of the hurdles that must be resolved to move forward on a $100 million redevelopment plan for the resort.

Millsfield residents also complained that they were facing large tax bills in the future. The county had land use revenues that allowed Millsfield and Dixville to avoid a major tax increase last year. Those revenues are not available this year.

Woodburn thanked Coos representatives for working hard to get the bill through the legislature. In particularly, he cited the bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Robert Theberge of Berlin.