MALONE – Two local residents voiced concerns to the Franklin County Industrial Development Agency on Monday over a possible PILOT for the proposed Jericho Rise wind farm project.
Malone residents Wayne Miller and Boyce Sherwin attended the special IDA meeting at the agency’s office in Malone; the meeting was called specifically to discuss a proposed payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with EDP Renewables. The company is seeking a PILOT as part of its plan to revitalize the Jericho Rise wind farm project in Chateaugay and Bellmont.
The EDP proposal calls for 37 wind turbines – 29 in Chateaugay and eight in Bellmont –– to come online by next year.
“Before accepting a PILOT agreement, I urge you to carefully examine and research how the public good is served by the granting of a PILOT,” said Miller, a retired Franklin Academy librarian who ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Malone Town Board this year.
Miller and Sherwin shared their reservations on granting a PILOT to EDP Renewables, stating that as a “private, for-profit company,” EDP should not be exempt from paying the same property taxes as other businesses and residential homeowners.
“These enterprises are already receiving subsidies from the state,” said Miller.
Sherwin recalled similar situation from several years ago involving another wind farm project in the area.
In 2007, the IDA entered into a PILOT agreement with Noble Power for the Chateaugay Wind Farm, along with Franklin County, the town of Chateaugay, and the village of Chateaugay. The Chateaugay Wind Farm currently has 72 wind turbines.
Sherwin said that PILOT agreements are best done under two circumstances: one, the company requesting the PILOT needs it in order to be financially viable, and two, the company’s presence will provide some “extraordinary benefit.”
“Neither of these proved to be true,” said Sherwin. He stated that Noble Power provided relatively few jobs after establishing itself in Chateaugay, and revenues from the PILOT fall drastically short of what full taxation on the wind farm property would bring. Noble Power also mortgaged the Chateaugay wind turbines as collateral within the first year of operation, according to Sherwin, generating a profit of $700 million for their first year of operation.
“The jobs are not there. The benefits to the community are not there,” said Sherwin, who was on the IDA board in 2007 and voted against the Noble Power PILOT at the time.
Miller also pointed to a similar wind farm project EDP was involved with in Madison County.
The Watertown Daily Times reported last month that EDP received a 15-year PILOT for its seven-turbine project in Madison County, which is due to expire next year. Company representatives have told Madison County officials that they cannot pay more than the $60,000 per year paid under the current PILOT, and are hoping for a renewal. Madison officials, in turn, replied that EDP could simply walk away from the project and have the issue resolved in court.
After public comments, the IDA board entered executive session to discuss negotiations with EDP Renewables. After coming out of the closed-door session, IDA CEO John Tubbs stated that the board had not yet taken any action on the Jericho Rise PILOT request.
“We’re early in the process,” Tubbs said on Monday.
Officials in Chateaugay and Bellmont are scheduled to meet jointly on Monday to discuss a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that EDP has prepared for the project. The Bellmont Town Board on Monday determined that a revised application for the project –– which reduced the number of turbines from 53 to 37 –– was complete and should be forwarded to the Franklin County Planning Board for review.