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St. Lawrence County legislators work to blunt any PILOT tax breaks

CANTON – St. Lawrence County legislators say any large-scale wind developers who receive payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOTS) will be required to pay the full-assessed property tax value.

The policy proposed in a Monday finance committee meeting says that any PILOT agreement with wind facilities capable of producing 25 megawatts of wind power or more “require annual payments to the county in an amount equal to that which the county would have received in real property taxes.”

The policy still needs approval from the full board of legislators before it would officially take effect.

Meanwhile, Parishville Town Supervisor Rodney Votra stated last week that the town is not interested in payments in lieu of taxes. “We want the full tax assessment,” Votra said.

Hopkinton Town Supervisor Susan Wood was not immediately available for comment.

The North Ridge Wind Farm calls for about 40 wind towers, about 500 feet high, to be built in Hopkinton and Parishville by Avangrid Renewables.

According to the resolution legislators want full tax value from developers due to the lack of jobs created by the farm, a potential decrease in property values within the impacted area, the impact the value of the development could have on the New York State tax cap.

Legislators were not opposed to wind farm development, but believe the impacts and burdens placed on the community by large-scale projects, have the potential to outweigh the benefits.

“The county cannot support these projects simply because they provide renewable energy generation and will create construction jobs,” the resolution says. “While there may be a significant number of construction jobs, there is no guarantee that those jobs will be filled by county residents. The construction employment may provide income to various local businesses, but that cash flow will abate as soon as construction is completed.”

Legislators echoed concerns from many in the community that do not believe the wind farms will benefit most in the community.

“The county remains concerned that there may be no long-term benefit for the community that justifies granting the sales tax relief and the long-term real property tax abatements being sought by developers.”

The current real property tax law provides a 15-year exemption from taxation of the incremental increase in value of real property created by the construction of solar, wind or farm waste energy systems, according to the resolution.

All taxing jurisdictions have the right to opt out of this law and to eliminate the exemption. Jurisdictions that do not opt out of the tax law can require the owner of the property improved with a wind system to enter into a payment in lieu of tax agreement with the taxing jurisdiction.

However, the developer could still work with the St. Lawrence County IDA to get a real property tax exemption and require the execution of a PILOT.

The county will not opt out of the tax law, but instead will require a PILOT to be comparable to the value of real property taxes, without an exemption, for any project over 25 MW, according to the resolution.

Since commercial wind developers could still apply to the county IDA for inducement as a project of the agency, it is appropriate to leave the exemption in place to assist in the development of facilities small than 25 megawatts, legislators said.

Legislators said they will inform the IDA of their position about the level of payments it is seeking under a county IDA PILOT.

The resolution is expected to go before the full board July 10.