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Freedom assessors table wind farm abatement

Freedom – A panel of two town selectmen-assessors postponed any action on a $2.9 million abatement request from the owner of a three-turbine wind energy development here.

Beaver Ridge Wind LLC contends that the town should have factored depreciation into the value of its 6-year-old wind farm at a rate of 5 percent per year. The company says the depreciation scale is consistent with other wind developments in Maine.

Instead, the town has held the valuation steady at $9.87 million for at least four years, and the initial assessed value was slightly less.

BRW has raised the question of depreciation before but has never formally sought an abatement on that basis. The current request is for a 30-percent cut, based on the full life of the turbines to date, six years at 5 percent per year. If approved, that would translate to $55,9743 in taxes.

An official at Freedom Town Office said the selectmen were joined by representatives of BRW and also Mike Rogers from the Maine Revenue Service’s Property Tax Division.

The selectmen-assessors tabled the abatement but did not set a specific date to take it up again.

Speaking on April 28, Selectman Ron Price said his fellow assessors probably held off on making a decision in order to process the large amount of information presented at the meeting.

Price recused himself from discussion of the abatement because he owns the land on which the turbines sit. But he attended and served as a moderator at the April 27 meeting.

BRW won a previous abatement request in 2011 after Freedom assessors tried to raise the valuation of the wind farm based on construction estimates from an outside source.

This time, as then, the question of value is complicated because it is hard to find a direct comparison.

“There might be two or three other projects [in other towns] that are not involved in TIFs,” Price said, referring to Tax Increment Financing, a mechanism that allows towns to shield tax receipts for certain local projects.

“So there’s not a lot of information to fall back on,” he said.

Price said the selectmen didn’t set a date to continue the hearing but could take it up at their next regular meeting, scheduled for May 4.