PERU – A new financial-impact study of a controversial 75-turbine wind farm in northern Miami County says the proposed project would bring millions of dollars of new revenue to the county and lower property taxes for residents.
Commissioners Larry West and Alan Hunt voted in July to approve funding to pay for two consulting companies to assess the potential impact of the project proposed by RES, an international renewable energy company with its U.S. headquarters based in Colorado.
On Monday, those companies presented their findings to the Miami County Board of Commissioners, which has yet to decide on whether to approve a recommendation from the county’s plan commission to increase turbine setback requirements to 2,000 feet from property lines – a move that, according to West, would kill the proposed project.
Jason Semler, a partner with the Indianapolis-based consulting firm Umbaugh, told commissioners Monday, as it stands, the project would bring an estimated $340 million investment to the county that would generate around $15.5 million in new tax revenue over the next 11 years.
However, the company would likely ask for a 10-year tax abatement during which it would pay just 45 percent of those taxes. If the county approved that abatement, the wind farm would generate around $7.7 million in new revenue over 11 years.
That would also lead to lower property taxes, especially in Allen, Perry, Richland and Union townships, where the project would be built.
If the county approved the tax abatement, people who owned a $150,000 house in one of those townships would save around $50 a year on property taxes. After the abatement, that savings would jump to around $95.
A $100,000 business would save around $125 a year on property taxes during the abatement. After the abatement, that savings would add up to around $240, according to the study.
Rick Hall, a partner with the Indianapolis-based law firm Barnes & Thornburg, said on top of increased tax revenue, the county would also receive a $5 million payout from the company over the next four years as part of its economic-development agreement. He said the county could use that money for any purpose.
Hall said the landowners who have signed on to the project are set to receive in total around $1.4 million in payments from the company.
RES also has agreed to create a financial-security fund secured by a third party to ensure the company has the money to repair roads to a condition that is as good, if not better, than the roads’ condition before the completion of the project.
A fund secured by a third party would also be created to ensure the company has the money to tear down the wind turbines in the event the project stops operating. The decommissioning agreement from the company requires the turbines be removed after they stop generating electricity for 12 consecutive months, Hall said.
Commissioners offered little comment on the study’s findings after the presentations. West told the crowd the board would not take questions or accept comments about the study until they decided to vote on the recommendations from the county plan commission on changes to the county’s wind farm ordinance.
Those recommended changes were approved by the plan commission in April after the project received fierce pushback from anti-wind residents, who said the turbines would severely impair their quality of life and create a health risk for area residents.
In response, the commission voted 6-3 to increase the turbine setback to 2,000 feet from property lines, roads, public lands and city limits. The county’s current ordinance requires a 1,000-foot setback from residential dwellings and a setback of no less than 350 feet from roads, railroads and public easements.
Wind-farm opponents saw the vote as the first step towards potentially shutting down the wind farm.
Now, Commissioners West and Hunt must vote on whether to accept those recommendations. Commissioner Josh Francis has recused himself from voting on the amended ordinance because he has been contracted by RES to help develop lease agreements.
County Attorney Pat Roberts said during a previous meeting in the event of a 1-1 tie between Hunt and West, the issue would fall back to the plan commission, which approved the amendments, and become law after 90 days.
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