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Apex: Wind farm could be built even if land is annexed  

Credit:  By Kirsten Crow | Corpus Christi Caller-Times | Aug 26, 2014 | www.caller.com ~~

CORPUS CHRISTI – Apex could consider moving forward with a full build-out of a proposed wind farm, should city officials and developers not reach a compromise, a representative told the council Tuesday.

Jeff Ferguson, the vice president of project development at Apex Clean Energy, was one of about two dozen people who addressed the City Council during the second public hearing of the proposed 16-square-mile annexation of Corpus Christi’s extraterritorial jurisdiction in the Chapman Ranch wind farm area.

“The assertion … that the annexation of the Chapman Ranch will halt the development of the wind farm is a false belief. Under state law, the Chapman Ranch wind farm development is grandfathered – a right the company is willing to defend,” Ferguson said. “Within this context, if the city elects to reject a reasonable compromise and pursues annexation, it will only serve to incentivize the company to fully build out the wind farm, because building a larger wind farm is the only way that we could accommodate the additional ad valorem tax on the farm itself.”

He added he thought those issues could be resolved, and a compromise brokered with the city, saying the wind farm and the community could coexist.

The hearing, which spanned about 2 1/2 hours, was the second about the proposed annexation, which city officials have said they are pursuing to either halt or regulate the development. Generally, concerns raised about the proposed wind farm – originally planned to include about 20,000 acres and 175 turbines, with a portion situated in the city’s ETJ – have included the wind farm’s affect on wildlife, radars, the Navy Air Station’s training programs and broadcast signals. But the most commonly cited, especially among city leaders, is the fear the development would be the death knell for Southside growth.

Warren Andrich, president and CEO of the Corpus Christi Association of Realtors, said discussion about projected trends identified the wind farm as a problem.

“Part of that potential ending of that growth is the erection of that wind farm,” he said. “It stands in the way of our continued growth. This is the wrong time to implement limited access to housing, and this is the wrong place. We’re not against (energy). We’re just against this proposed wind farm at this moment in time.”

Others who spoke held up property rights, with some describing the wind farm as a way to provide supplemental income for an agricultural business that can fall victim to South Texas’ droughts. Some who live in the area have also complained plans to extend municipal services to the area aren’t adequate.

John Helm, a real estate developer and investor who has a project in the Chapman Ranch area, described the council’s pursuit of annexation a “gutsy move.”

“One of the things that really bothers me is they talked about a lot of things, but they really beat the hammer on property rights,” he said. “Well, what about the property rights of those around it?”

But Louise Chapman, one of the property owners, noted there were thousands of acres available between the city limits and the ranch for development, adding the land her husband owned is not for sale.

“There was a lot of interest in the past of continuing developing downtown,” she said. “What about all this undeveloped area in the city already?”

Negotiations between land owners, Apex and the city for a municipal services plan are ongoing.

In a post on the Apex website, company representatives wrote their offer to the city included, among other items, decreasing the project in the city’s ETJ by 7,000 acres, paying the city $200,000 per year and working with stakeholders to address concerns ranging from the Naval Air Station’s training programs to towers operated by local broadcast stations.

City officials declined to discuss details about the negotiations.

The council is expected to take its first vote on the annexation Sept. 16, with a second vote Sept. 23.

Officials have the option to push back that vote by 60 days, but delaying the vote is not under consideration, said Mark Van Vleck, utilities director.

Source:  By Kirsten Crow | Corpus Christi Caller-Times | Aug 26, 2014 | www.caller.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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