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Eastbrook gives green light to getting millions from SunEdison

EASTBROOK – Without a single vote in opposition, voters approved financial agreements with wind developer SunEdison Monday night that are projected to be worth $18.4 million to the town in the coming decades.

All of that money is dependent on a 22-turbine wind farm, to be known as Weaver Wind, that SunEdison plans to build in Eastbrook and neighboring Osborn. The Missouri-based wind developer recently pulled its state application for Weaver Wind, but said it plans to resubmit that application at a later date.

Eastbrook First Selectman Julie Curtis said Tuesday morning that about 30 residents attended the special town meeting Monday night. That meeting involved two separate votes – one on a tax increment financing (TIF) plan and associated credit enhancement agreement, and the other on a community benefit agreement with SunEdison.

The TIF would be worth $13.9 million to Eastbrook over 30 years, in the form of property taxes on the new wind farm. That is how the town benefits.

How does the company benefit? As explained at previous meetings, the TIF essentially amounts to a large tax break for SunEdison. Through the credit enhancement agreement, 50 percent of the company’s property taxes will be forgiven for 20 years. That amounts to a $7.4-million benefit for SunEdison, according to estimates at those earlier meetings.

Another benefit to the town is that it would also essentially save about $1.5 million by hiding the value of the new wind farm development from use in state and county funding formulas. The town would avoid higher county taxes and a larger school bill.

The community benefit agreement, which is a payment directly from SunEdison that the town can use for any purpose, would be worth $3 million over 20 years.

Curtis said both votes Monday night were done using a show of hands, rather than casting secret ballots. She said an attempt to have a secret ballot vote failed.

Asked what happens next, now that the town has approved the TIF and community benefit agreement, Curtis said, “We’re hoping SunEdison submits its application again.”

The company has pledged to do that, but has not given a time frame of when that might happen.

Curtis said the town’s TIF committee has done a lot of work designating what parts of town would fall into TIF districts. Those areas would be targeted for economic development efforts, which is what the TIF money must be used for.

She said any residents with ideas about how the TIF money could be used should contact members of the TIF committee. Ideas floated so far include repairing town roads (since so much of the business in town is dependent on transportation) and fixing up the old Town House as a hub for small businesses or a farmers market.