The Jefferson County Board of Legislators Finance Committee Tuesday passed a new tax abatement policy for large-scale alternative energy projects. The policy requires that alternative energy projects with a 25-megawatt output must pay the county an amount equal to full taxation regardless of whether payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement among taxing jurisdictions and the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency is in place.
New York State Real Property Tax Law 487 allows for a 15-year exemption from taxation of increases in property value created by construction of solar, wind or farm waste energy systems. Taxing jurisdictions can require project owners to enter a PILOT agreement with each appropriate jurisdiction and their respective industrial development agency. However, jurisdictions are allowed to opt out of the law if they so choose.
The policy would affect projects such as Apex Clean Energy’s planned Galloo Island wind farm in the town of Hounsfield.
The wind farm will consist of 32 turbines and a 30-mile underwater transmission line from the island to a National Grid substation in the town of Oswego.
The project must go through the Article 10 review process, which is expected to continue for the next year with construction scheduled to start in late 2017. Construction will create 100 to 150 temporary jobs, but only three to five permanent jobs will remain once the project is finished in 2018.
Apex is expected to approach the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency for a PILOT agreement, which would require approval from Jefferson County, Hounsfield and the Sackets Harbor Central School District.
Board members devised the resolution after it was decided that alternative energy projects don’t bring a sufficient amount of economic gain to warrant tax relief by the county.
Scott A. Gray, chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators, said the policy works as a compromise – the county will approve a PILOT while also allowing taxing jurisdictions to make their own decisions regarding abatement.
“We are not trying to kill a project,” Mr. Gray said. “We are simply saying, ‘this is what we expect.’ We don’t subscribe to the theory that something is better than nothing.”
All but one legislator voted in favor of the policy.
Allen T. Drake, D-District Four, voted against the rule because he believes such projects still would bring enough economic activity.
“I think there is some significant secondary economic activity, which would warrant some kind of a PILOT,” Mr. Drake said. “Because of that, I just can’t see one blanket PILOT rule.”
JCIDA CEO Donald C. Alexander echoed Mr. Drake’s concerns, noting that the board should still consider each project individually.
“I would encourage all elected officials to look at them individually and understand the values of community,” Mr. Alexander said.
Cat Mosley, a spokeswoman for Apex Clean Energy, said the company has only expressed interest in pursuing a PILOT through the IDA and has not yet laid out specific tax abatement requests. She added that the company also has not had time to fully review the county’s policy, but the project will proceed as normal.
“We look forward to continued discussions with all involved jurisdictions,” she said.
Town of Clayton resident Gunther A. Schaller and town of Lyme resident Donald J. Metzger, who have often opposed wind projects throughout the county, attended the meeting to applaud legislators on the policy.
The full board will vote on the rule next week.
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